#QueerBlogWed: Mel’s Master

On March 30, 2022, P.T. Wyant posted a Wednesday Words prompt involving a barn, soup, and a bouquet.

This isn’t the first time she suggested a barn. I thought this might have a connection to the barn that scared Tayel in a previous Tale of the Navel. Only the barn wasn’t that scary. Not back then, not to Map. Not that Sister Mel had any idea whom Map was. She was just Master.

The Master stayed in the barn, serving the soup up to everyone who approached. Somehow she’d hauled her giant cauldron, stirring it while the animals nearby neighed, whinnied, and snorted a protest. 

Not that there was anything to protest. There was no meat in the cauldron. Just vegetables, herbs, and a spice which tickled the nostrils, even if you had trouble eating. 

Melyssa Ashelocke may have dined on broth and flesh, the offerings brought to the daughter of the Guardians of the Gardens of Arachne, but she was Mel now. A Sister of Seraphix, eating food and relieving herself as human beings must. 

How strange, disgusting and yet pleasurable to enjoy these things. She might have given them up all together, if she’d continued to be Melyssa. If she’d embraced being a full arachnocrat. 

How Van would have sneered to see her, among outsiders, among commoners, among men. Many of them weren’t even good-looking. 

“Animals. Perverts.” These were popular terms Vanessa Ashelocke bestowed upon boys with beards, hairy chins and chests. “Snuffling and lusting after any female which crosses their paths, unable to control that lust. Tasteless fare. Why your mother keeps them as valentines, I’ll never know.”

The bearded didn’t snuffle nor leer at the master. They gazed at her in a faint disbelief as if they couldn’t believe anyone was offering them this soup. 

Custard sat on her haunches, watching them with an alert muzzle. If any other animals acted up around the master, she’d keep them in line. 

“Hello, Gyn.” Master looked each visitor in the eye, remembering their names. “How is your leg?”

“Better, Sister.” Gyn bowed his head. “Whatever is in that soup has strength to it.”

“Have some more.” The Master chuckled, pouring a little more in his earthen bowl. “Is that you, Meggie?”

To Mel’s embarassment, Sister Megan was right there with the men and women, holding out a bowl. 

“Sister Megan!” Mel barked, unable to believe the other woman’s gluttony. “This soup isn’t for us! It’s for the visitors!”

“It tastes so good.” Megan licked her lips. “It’s true what they’re saying. It gives strength.”

“Thank you, Meggie, but this soup is for the visitors.” The Master winked the round-faced, cheerful young woman in white robes. “I’ll make another pot for the Sisters of Seraphix back at the temple.”

“Oh, all right,” Megan said with a good-natured sigh. She held out her bowl to a little girl, peeking around the door of the barn, unsure if she should enter. “Come on in. We don’t bite.”

“At least not today.” The Master winked, her large black eyes twinkling in her weathered brown face. Sometimes she reminded Melyssa of a tree who’d taken on human form. Only most of trees who posed as humans were angry at too many of them chopped down for the two-legged dwelling places. When they appeared, they knocked down walls, sometimes dragging those inside deep in the dirt. 

The Master might be gruff, but she didn’t seem angry. Not seriously angry. 

The little girl crept forward. “I hear you worship a demon.”

“Not a demon, child.” The Master smiled in a kindly way. Mel marveled at her patience in the face of the same superstitious nonsense, again and again. “Seraphix is the God of Balance. We Sisters live here at their temple, seeking some sort of balance in our lives.”

“All of you?” The little girl crept forward. “Why do you share soup with people who can’t grow or make their own?”

“Because you can’t grow or make your own, but we can.” Map filled another bowl, handing it to the little girl. “We have things you don’t, therefore we’re sharing them. Redressing the balance.” 

The child frowned as if this made no sense. “The local knight usually takes our vegetables. He says we owe it to him, for protecting us.”

Mel let out a hissing breath. “The excuses men make.”

“Now, now, Mel.” The Master gave her a reproving glance. “Men aren’t the only ones who make excuses.”

“He has a lady.” The child stood with her bowl of soup, moving a little closer to Mel. “She took my sister as her servant. She gave her a fine dress, but we don’t see her very often.”

For a moment Mel remembered the long, flowing purple gowns Van wore, slit for her additional arms after she took Dyvian as her Marriage Feast. Something thick gathered in her throat, hot and heavy. 

“Sometimes those we love forget us for a time when they get a new dress,” she murmured. “We just have to wait for them to remember. Remember that there are many dresses. Only one of us.”

The little girl looked up at Mel with bright eyes and nodded. She lifted her soup to her lips. “What are carrying?”

“I was wondering the same thing.” Megan turned a bright eye on the other Sister. “You picked a lot of flowers.”

Mel flushed, looking down at the purple, blue, yellow, and red wildflowers she gathered. A shoddy bouquet and a shoddy offering. 

“Here.” She held them out to the Master, eyes shut tight. Not sure she wanted to see the Master’s reaction. 

After all, Van had laughed at her when she’d given her flowers. “We’re both girls, you fool. Arachnocrats. Here you are, offering me a bouquet like some lovesick morsel of a boy!”

Warm hand took hers. 

Mel opened her eyes to see the Master gathering the flowers to her breast, eyes moist. “Thank you, Mel. That was very sweet of you.” 

It was too much for Mel. She fled, running past the line of people entering the barn, toward the green hills. 

On one of them stood the Temple of Seraphix. Her home. Her Sisters’s home. Her master’s home. 

The Sisters of Seraphix weren’t forced to take on vows of chastity, but many of them chose to live a chaste life. Mel had been one of them. 

The passions of an arachnocrat, released in all their predatory hunger upon the boys had held no attraction for Melyssa. The other ladies, however, stirred up something different. Something forbidden. Vanessa, in particular. 

She didn’t want to drain Van of her life, her essence. This was one of the reasons she’d fled the Gardens of Arachne with Damian’s help. 

Melyssa found the Sisters of Seraphix and their Temple. She’d found the Master. Somehow about her made Mel’s chest ache. 

It might not be a problem for a human woman like Mel pretended to be, but Melyssa was Duessa Ashelocke’s daughter. Even if she had only one pair of arms, even if she’d never indulged in a Marriage Feast, she wasn’t sure if she could love anyone like a human woman. She wasn’t sure if she dared to try. 

The Master made her feel so warm and safe in a way Duessa never had. Mel just wanted to let her know how she felt, how much it meant to her. This was why she’d picked flowers, gathering a bouquet for her. 

It wasn’t any more than that. It couldn’t be. 

Mel swallowed and rubbed her eyes. She didn’t want to be a monster. This was why she was here, but you couldn’t always get what you wanted.

If only Seraphix was a god who granted wishes as well as offering balance, but that was a bit silly and selfish. 

Mel was lucky. Mel was happy. Mel had a good home with the Sisters. Here Mel was close to the Master. 

It was enough. It would have to be enough. 


Secondary Characters Speak Out: Quartz and Gryluxx

Quartz sits in a clearing in the Forest of Tears where red flowers like fat teardrops hang low on many of trees. He can see many of them even if he’s perched on a stump. He can also see the crystal coffin not far away. It’s occupied but he refuses to look too closely at it.

Quartz: Not sure if it’s me or my Fairest in there. Not sure when I am or how I woke up. It was a cursed sleep after all. Doesn’t seem like it would be that easy to wake from. 

Gryluxx: Because it’s my will that you look me in the eye when you speak to me, dwarf. Not just lie there on your back. 

A flock of crows swoop down to snatch at Quartz’s dark green cap. 

Quartz: Oi! (He bats away at the birds, getting pecked in process.) Get away from me!

The crows swirl around in a whirring vortex of feathers only to disaappear into a feathered cloak. The cloak settles upon the shoulders of a robed man with a goatee, a sneer, and beady eyes. A single silver medallion rests against his breast. 

Gryluxx: How rude. (He strokes his medallion, rings flashing on every finger.) I happen to be your guest for this month’s blog. Even if I marvel at the conceit which allows you to dismiss me, me! as a secondary character. 

Quartz: Right. (He rocks forward on the stump to peer at his “guest”.) Just whom am I supposed to be impressed by? Meaning you. (He snorts a bit at his own words.)

Gryluxx: (sniffing) Mind your tone, dwarf, for I am Gryluxx. Master of mysteries. Snatcher of secrets. I am the eyes and ears of the Lord of Omphalos and all the lands that surround it. I am what was wasted in the cupbearer of the former Lord of the Heavens, Chosen Follower of Seraphix. I am…(He stops, stares hard at Quartz)…that is very shoddy work. 

Quartz: (starting to doze off during Gryluxx’s litany, startled awake by the comment) Eh? What of it?

Gryluxx: Your cap. (The robed man fixes his beady eyes upon the cap in question) The seams are coming undone. I can make you another one, far sturdier for a very reasonable price. 

Quartz: Erm, I don’t know. (He touches the cap on his head.) This belonged to my mum. It’s been with me under earth and rock, wood and air. 

Gryluxx: It looks it. (He lets out another sniff.) Just how often do you change your clothes? You smell terrible. 

Quartz: Now see here! (He leaps down from the stool to glare up at Gryluxx who isn’t that tall.) I’ve lying there in a cursed sleep for shards knows how long. You try doing that and see how you smell after!

Gryluxx: (wrinkling his nose) I think not. No mere curse is great enough to catch me. Plus I can stitch a cap that’ll make you the envy and terror of goblins everywhere. 

Quartz: Look, I’ve got no quarrel with goblins. Don’t believe all the stereotypes about dwarves. Especially the ones that make us all handsome, sweeping halflings off their feet and into danger. I keep to myself and don’t go looking for trouble. 

Gryluxx: You’re only living a half life if that’s true. Trouble is where life’s most delicious slices lie. I’m guessing the most interesting things about you are what you try to hide. 

Quartz: What of it? That’s my concern. Not yours. 

Gryluxx: Everyone’s trouble is my concern. Remember I’m the master of mysteries and the stealer of secrets. 

Quartz: And you also sew caps. 

Gryluxx: You would look far less withered and grumpy in red. A red cap would give you a little more life. 

Quartz: Who are you calling withered and grumpy? The last thing I want is a red cap. It would cause all sorts of misunderstandings, yes it would. (He pauses.) Why am I talking like Nimmie Not?!

Nimmie Not: (not appearing but Quartz can hear him in his ear) I’m under your skin. Soon you’ll be dressing like me in yellow stockings. 

Quartz: (shuddering) Gah!

Gryluxx: (taking a step closer, nose twitching) What was that?

Quartz: Nothing! (takes a step back) Look, I’ve got no wish to change my cap. 

Gryluxx: Change will come whether you wish it to or not. Change flies on wings of omen to envelop you whether you welcome it or fight. Better to be prepared and attired for it. Better to let me attire you for it. 

Quartz: Gah, you’re as pushy as Nimmie Not! What are you, a wandering tailor peddling your wares as well as a mage?

Gryluxx: (drawing himself up stiffly) I never said I was anything as crude as a mage. I leave such vulgar ripples of power to Ashleigh, her wife, and her sons. 

Quartz: Should I know these people? (He pauses, frowns.) Wait, yes, I should…Map. Ashleigh’s wife would happen to be short as well as short-tempered? Lives in a cottage, doesn’t like visitors, has three sons?

Gryluxx: That would be Ashleigh’s wife. Her sons are far more beautiful than she is, although Ashleigh has improved greatly since when I once knew her. By a different name. 

Quartz: What name would that be?

Gryluxx: Tut, tut! Are you saying you don’t know, dwarf? You’ve met her. You’ve had her as a guest. She’s spoken to you about me as well. 

Quartz: What are you talking about?

Gryluxx: If you don’t know, I’m not telling you. (He lets out a wet-sounding chuckle.) Oh, the things I know that you don’t, even about your own blog. 

Quartz: And what would that be? 

Gryluxx: I’m sure Christopher has slunk in here, pretending to be a secondary character, the sneaky little shadow. Hasn’t he?

Quartz: Nothing sneaky about it. Christopher just shows up. 

Gryluxx: He’s spoken of Ashleigh’s sons, hasn’t he? The twins. Pretty boys, look very like her in her latest incarnation. Golden-haired, huge violet-blue eyes, button noses. Dressed impeccably thanks to my efforts and my lord’s degree. 

Quartz: So you’re saying you dress Danyel and Tayel. 

Gryluxx: Ah, so you do know them!

Quartz: Not sure if I’ve met them in a cross-over blog. So many dreams, so many blogs. (He rubs his head.) I blame the scribbler for being muddled. I’m sure she’s the one that’s muddled. 

Gryluxx: I would think you’d remember them if you met them. They are pretty boys, if insolent, willful, and utterly ignorant of their place. 

Quartz: Right and where would that be?

Gryluxx: Under my…guidance. 

Quartz: Uh huh. Guidance. Right. 

Gryluxx: (scowls) Right? Christopher would have done so much better if he’d accepted my guidance. 

Quartz: You offered to guide him?

Gryluxx: Well, no. (He scowls.) There were complications. A boy. A man, really, we were both close to. I didn’t trust Christopher. He is a shadow after all. 

Quartz: Right. And you’re the stealer of secrets. Among other things. 

Gryluxx: (drawing himself up) Are you questioning me? My title or my truth?

Quartz: It’s what I do here. Secondary characters come to me, wanting to be questioned. Doubt they’d show up otherwise. 

Gryluxx: You dare to call me a secondary character? Again? 

Quartz: Look at it this way. Map, her wife, even Christopher all considered themselves to be secondary characters. They’ve all ended up here. 

Gryluxx: And what secrets did they whisper to you?

Quartz: You want to know? Ask them. Or go find the blogs and read them. 

Gryluxx: Just what does Christopher want with the twins? What is he hiding?

Quartz: Not sure if he’s hiding anything. He just wants to protect them, yet he’s worried if he can’t if he gets too close to them. 

Gryluxx: Oh ho! He does, does he? (He rubs his hands together.) How delicious! Does he speak of that often?

Quartz: (backing up another step) Why do you ask?

Gryluxx: Isn’t it obvious, fool? The twins are of interest to my masters. Danyel and Tayel are mysteries. Therefore they’re of interest to me. I would crack them open, have them serve me. 

Quartz: Right. Serve you as what? A tailor’s assistants?

Gryluxx: (flinching before drawing himself up huffily) They’ve got to start somewhere. 

Quartz: If they’ve got to start.

Gryluxx: Just what are you saying, dwarf?

Quartz: Not sure if they’ve got start anywhere or anything. Not if it leads to serving you. Or being cracked open. 

Gryluxx: (baring his teeth) We’ll see about that, dwarf.

He spreads his cloak with a melodramatic flourish and lets out an equally melodramatic cackle. The cackle becomes the cawing of crows as Gryluxx transforms into a flock of birds. They take fight, cawing all the way in derision. 

Quartz: (watching them leave with just as much derision) Show-off. 

#RainbowSnippets: Stealing Myself From Shadows

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

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

To sample different LGBTQIA+ stories, go to…


In Stealing Myself From Shadows, Christopher had just accepted Damian’s hand, stepping into his world. This will be my last share from my NaNoWriMo project for a while since it’s December, the perfect time to trot out my Christmas publications. Enjoy!

 I gasped in inarticulate delight to look up at the sun, to squint away from its brightness in an endless blue sky.  I dug my toes into the squishy earth beneath my feet, the soft grass. 

    Ah, my feet were bare. That was a problem, wasn’t it? 

    I looked down at my body, touched the loose, short white tunic covering it. 

    For a moment a flash of memory, of boys dressed like me, flowers in their hair blazed in my mind, only to disappear, leaving me cold. 

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#QueerBlogWed: Wednesday Words

On April 13, 2022, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt. It involved a fishing pole, a leather-bound book, and a fever.

This poem was the result…

A leather-bound book replaces a fishing pool

You chose a different instrument 

To reel in your catches

A passive tool of predation

One your prey may not have noticed

For it was all part of your fever dream

A bright eye there, a sly smile there

Thighs shifting silkily under pants

Head tossed to reveal an arch of neck

They all performed for you

Doing a private dance you noticed

Peering over the edge of your book

Small and timid, so easy to overlook

Jotting down the details in your book

Details which became embellished

Secret stories of conquest related in a fever

A flush of fear, bringing on lust

A desire to reel those seductive swimmers in

You had them to yourself on the page

Only to turn cold with shame when the fever passed

Hiding the book underneath your bed

Allowing time and distance to pass

Before you dare to open that book again

Staring in bewilderment at the steamy details

You’d almost forgotten your conquests

The conquests you only conquered in a dream

You blush to read your own fantasies

Wondering where you get your own ideas. 

Conversations with Christopher: Duessa

Often Christopher walks through shadows, finding himself taking shape in the Cauldron. 

Not this time. He hears singing; women’s voices, singing along with one deeper voice, drawing them all in. 

“Blessed is the Feast

Who offer up his life in marriage

Who chooses not to take

Who gives power instead

Never forcing his dream on anyone

Offering up his blood to his bride

Give him a lifetime of pleasure

Ecstacy beyond fleeting release

Fulfil every desire

Leaving him eternal.”

Flowers blossom on thorny vines around him, popping into life, petals trembling. Trapped in bloom.

Christopher reaches out a hand to the flower, only to see it blacken, withering upon the vine, letting out a sound that’s all too like a sigh of relief. 

The voices die, becoming one voice. 

Christopher faces the arch leading into the Temple of Arachne. Four statues stand in repose. All of them are women with eight arms, frozen in an eternal dance. None of them are former Marriage Feasts. 

Christopher: I’ve always wondered whom they were, those four arachnocrats. 

Duessa: So have I. They appeared with the Temple when the Gardens blossomed around the Ashelocke estate. 

She moves forward, wearing a black gown with slitted sleeves, allowing her eight arms to move. Her auburn hair is piled on top a silver and golden coronet, letting auburn curls fall to brush against her neck. A pendant in the shape of an enormous ebon spider with a red teardrop on its back nestles above her breast. Only four of her eyes are open; the rose-purple and the golden. 

Christopher: When did the Gardens blossom?

Duessa: When the tower fell, but there’s always another tower. Just as with death, there’s always rebirth. Tell me, Christopher, why kill such a lovely flower with your touch?

Christopher: (wrapping his arms around himself) It was trapped in eternal beauty. I wanted to free it.

Duessa: Even if it means killing him with your touch?

Christopher: You speak of the flower as if it was a person.

Duessa: I speak of it of the flower as if it were a boy. Boys and flowers are similar to me. They have only a short time to bloom. 

Christopher: Is that what the arachnocrats were singing about?

Duessa: They sing that song at every Marriage Feast. They sang it at yours.

Christopher: (shivers again, recalling the sting, the brief moment of ecstacy before it fled) I remember. 

Duessa: Do you understand why? What this chant means?

Christopher: It’s about being cut down before you can truly bloom. For blooming is painful. (He closes his eyes.) For a moment I felt its pain and its pleasure. A lifetime’s worth. 

Duessa: This is what we give you at your Marriage Feast. A lifetime’s worth of pleasure and pain in your bride’s arms, leaving you utterly satisfied and still. 

Christopher: Stone. 

Duessa: Eternally beautiful. You sound very like Damian, Christopher. I never thought you objected to being a Marriage Feast, Christopher. Nor to me.

Christopher: I’m not the same Christopher you fed upon. Not entirely. 

Duessa: You look, smell, and respond very much like he did. 

Christopher: I think Damian meant me to. 

Duessa: Did he really?

He gazes at her, a goddess with many arms. Or as close to a goddess as he’s ever seen. Power writhes within her, hungry and alluring. Ready to strike. He can see some of that power in her slitted golden eyes. The scent of roses rises from her hair, her arms, her skirts; overwhelming him. Making his eyelids tremble, his entire body ready to relax into something limp and pliable.

It’s an effort to keep his feet planted in the ground. 

Christopher: You are what you’ve always been, Duessa.

Duessa: And what is that, tidbit?

Christopher: My lady. Our lady. 

Duessa: How courteous you are. Far more courteous than my Damian ever was, yet you prefer him. You gave yourself to him, even when you promised yourself to me. 

Christopher: (shivering again) I cannot recall this promise. 

Duessa: It was just one more thing you chose to drop in the Shadow Forest, feeding to your hungry admirers there. 

Christopher: Everyone has hungry admirers in the Shadow Forest. 

Duessa: True. You never answered my question. Just what is our song about? The prayer we make for every Marriage Feast?

Christopher: It’s a prayer?

Duessa: Of course. A prayer to the spider to make us worthy of your sacrifice. 

Christopher: Us?

Duessa: We arachnocrats, of course. We’re well aware of what you’re sacrificing during the Feast. 

Christopher: Our future. That’s what the song is about. Giving up the future for the passion of the present. 

Duessa: Entrusting the future to your bride in exchange for the passion of the present. We are not thieves, Christopher, no matter what Damian might think. 

Christopher: Shouldn’t you be telling Damian this?

Duessa: (sighing) I doubt Damian will ever allow himself to be alone with me again. Except for one last time. 

Christopher: What time is that?

Duessa: When he challenges me. You see, Damian would never exchange power for pleasure. This is why he abandoned both of us. 

Christopher: (shutting his eyes) I don’t feel abandoned. 

Duessa: You should, tidbit, You should. (Her shadow spreads across the ground, moving toward him. It darkens the stone at the bases of two of the eight-armed statues.) Know this, Christopher Ashelocke. I would have taken your life, your power, and your future, but I wouldn’t have abandoned you. Nor will I abandon him. 

Christopher: Is that why you spared me?

Duessa: I didn’t spare you, little one. I devoured you.

Christopher: Only I didn’t become a statue. Why?

It’s Duessa’s turn to shut her eyes, both the rose-purple and the golden. 

Duessa: Tut, tut. You wouldn’t want me revealing all of my secrets at once. Would you, little one?

She raises her arms, all eight of them, rising into the sky, up, up, where the dome awaits. A dome which looks like an intricate web of stars, linked together. 

Christopher wonders if the web above is Duessa’s or belongs to Arachne. The Spider Herself whom the Guardian of Gardens claims to worship. 

It’s not safe to stand and wonder if this place. Tiny webs will slip over him, clinging to him, binding him here. 

He closes his eyes, willing himself to fade away. To become a ghost the ties slip through, unable to catch. 

Christopher disappears. As he does, the Temple disappears as well. Disappears into darkness, prickled by tiny lights. 

For a moment, one of those lights seems to wink. Wink in a way Christopher would find very familiar. 

A pity he’s no longer here to see it. 

#RainbowSnippets: Stealing Myself From Shadows

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

Every Saturday or Sunday this 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…


In mine, Damian has claimed Christopher’s hand with his consent, but where is he taking him? Christopher finds out in Stealing Myself From Shadows

His entwined themselves around mine, warm and solid. As we touched, the world blossomed around us. 

    We stood in the middle of a garden filled with winding paths surrounded with roses springing out from the bushes. The sweet scent went straight to my head, leaving me slightly giddy. A gazebo stood behind us, covered with twisting vines and purple blossoms. Flowers grew in clusters all around us. 

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#QueerBlogWed: A Moment of Crossover

Quartz is getting impatient. He’s tired of being trapped in a crystal coffin, in a sleeping curse. He’s tired of his own story, Of Cuckoo Clocks and Crystal Coffins being put on hold while I’m concentrating on Stealing Myself From Shadows.

So when one of his favorite people in the real world posted a Wednesday Words prompt at ptwyant.com involving an origami star, a sheep, and windchimes, he decided to take over. Never mind the wind chimes at the Navel and Gabrielle’s greeting crawling their way into his cursed sleep…

Someone was folding paper into a star. Huh, pretty. Imagine being able to do that. A light shone inside. Maybe they’d put it in the sky. It would lead a bunch of star-struck worshippers to their true queen. 

Right. Only in dreams. 

Windchimes tinkled. A sheep bleated. Someone greeted me in one of those loud, ridiculously cheerful voices. “Welcome to the Navel, center of all things bizarre!” 

“Urgh, shaddap,” I growled, realized I was moving my lips. “Can’t a cursed dwarf sleep in peace? Like there’s anything bizarre about contemplating your navel.”

“Ah, the navel is the center of a person’s being. Therefore the center of the world.” The voice changed, becoming higher. More sing-song. Even more irritating. All too familiar. “Therefore if a person is important to you, their navel is the center of your world.”

“Right. Just what I need to get up. Ruddy romantic philosophy.” I opened one eye, my vision filled with the wrinkled, beaming face of kobold. “Why can’t you return use of my limbs instead, eh?”

“Peace, my darling demented dwarf.” Nimmie Not, my own personal demon reached out with impossibly long, bony fingers to tweak my nose. “To be honest, to claim to be the center of all things bizarre is unsufferable arrogance on the part of a wayward direction, but we can all make whatever nonsense we wish to out of it.”

“Nonsense being one of your favorite things.” I glowered at him, accutely aware of my sore back from lying too long on this crystal. “Forcing me to lie through yours is another.”

“Ouch! You wound me!” He clutched his chest, swaying above me, making me aware he was above me, on the other side of the crystal. 

The nose tweaking, it had been close, close enough to tickle like a mad will’o’wisp, but his fingers couldn’t touch me. Nimmie Not was outside my coffin, clear enough to see, kept away by rock. 

“So sad, so close, so far.” Nimmie Not sniffed the air. “I smell roses and briars. Her scent still clings to you.”

“She scattered flowers over me before she left.” Where had they gone. Maybe they’d been magical flowers, disappearing when my Fairest had. “Haven’t seen her. Haven’t been awake.”

“No, only dreaming the dreams of the perpetually grumpy.” Nimmie Not let out a sigh. “Your brothers miss you. Poor Garnet has torn out his beard.”

“I kept telling him not to, the silly lad.” I sighed, stared at the crystal. “And how is she?”

“She? What she are we speaking of?” Nimmie Not let out a sniff. “There are entirely too many princesses and witches wandering this Forest of Tears. I lose track of them all.”

“You know who.” I wasn’t moving my lips. Somehow I was talking. Somehow Nimmie Not was hearing. “How is she?”

“She? She has found a princess of her own to torment and curse.” The kobold let out another sniff, looking down his long nose at me. “She’s been having entirely too much fun with her victim to think about you.”

Aw, shards. Here’s hoping Nimmie Not was telling tall tales again. Alas, there was usually some truth in them. “Sounds like she’s happy.”

“How unhappy you sound when you say that.” The little man scowled, tapped his long fingers against the coffin. “Really, Quartz. When are you going to stop worrying about her? It’s not like she’s your actual daughter.”

“Yes.” Shards, the sadness welled up like a vein of silver uncovered. Why was it somehow beautiful? “She’s my daughter as much as she’s anybody’s. You don’t stop worrying about someone just because they’re not worried about you.”

“No.” Reproach filled his voice, brimmed in his bright black eyes as he fixed them upon me. “No, you don’t Quartz.”

If I could move, I might have flinched. There was no missing that double-meaning. 

“If you’re worried, get me out of here.” It was as close as I came to pleading with him. 

“I told you.” He crossed his arms, gazing at me with that reproachful face. “Breaking that curse and getting up is up to you.”

I snorted, even if it was just in my own mind. I didn’t believe him. Who would? 

From the first time I’d met him, he’d been full of mischief and tricks. Trying to convince me I was a Person of Importance. At least to him. 

Right. As if I’d ever believe that. 

Never mind a fool part of me wanted to. 

Conversations with Christopher: Gabrielle

The room is bigger than Christopher would have thought, looking up at the Navel from outside; a cottage with a shingled, slanted roof, vine-covered walls, and clear glass windows. 

He’s not outside. He’s sitting at a table in a room above the shop, listening to the rain tapping on the roof. 

Gabrielle sits nearby, golden loose, falling free over a dark blue robe covered with tiny smiley faces. She cradles a cup of tea in her hands, steaming rising from its surface. She watches the rain drops slide down the glass, leaving a trail which is splattered by a second drop and a third. All making their mark against the surface. 

Gabrielle: Yes, it will make its mark against the glass along with dirt and dust, yet the rain washes everything away. Leaving everything cleaner except for this window. 

Christopher: Omphalos is clean. Cleaner than many places I remember. I could almost believe we’re safe, having a roof over our heads. Watching all this rain come down without being soaked by its wet embrace, its damp kisses. 

Gabrielle: (smiling a little) Watching yet somehow apart. In the middle of the rain yet untouched by it. 

Christopher: (feeling a bit stung) Isn’t that why we do in the Navel? Watch our customers, remaining apart from them? 

Gabrielle: Is it?

Christopher: People come into your shop. We guide them to whatever they need. Once they have it, they leave. We may never see them again. Unless they come back, unsatisfied, wanting something else. Or the same something, again and again.

Gabrielle: Actually there’s only one regular customer like that. 

Christopher: I know. Hebe keeps asking for cup after cup. Only to smash it and come back for another. It annoyed Damian to no end. 

Gabrielle: And you think we’re untouched by this? Finding our customers what they want, guiding them to something they didn’t even realize they needed? Helping them in a way they cannot help themselves?

Christopher: No. (He releases a breath.) I suppose these were Damian’s doubts. Not mine. 

Gabrielle turns her attention from the window to fix her vivid blue eyes upon him. She lifts the cup in her hand.

Gabrielle: I don’t really need this tea. At some point I’ll have to look for a toilet, a privy, or a convenient hole, and pee a lot of this out. That’s part of life. Right now the cup is warm in my hands, warming my cheeks, soothing my stomach. It tastes sweet, giving off a flowery scent which clears my head. I’m enjoying it even if I have to pee later. 

Christopher: What do you mean?

Gabrielle: How valuable your time is in the Navel is up to you, Christopher. Damian thought he was wasting his here. Do you?

Christopher gazes at her smooth face, the smile playing at the corner of her generous mouth. 

Christopher: I may pay for this later. (The truth slips from his lips without thought.) I worry that you’ll pay for it, too, having a creature like me around. I worry that Damian is already paying for it. For bringing me into this life. I love it, though. I love being alive. I love walking through Omphalos, looking up at the sky, not worrying about what will swoop down from above because I allowed myself to daydream. I love being here, sititng here with you. (He ducks his head, feeling a little shy.) I love being your son. 

Gabrielle puts the cup down. She reaches for his hand. Hers is warm from the tea cup, her fingers strong. 

Gabrielle: If you love these things, it’s worth whatever price you…we…will pay for it. 

The two of them fall silent, listening to the rain fall. 

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#RainbowSnippets: Stealing Myself From Shadows

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 stories of LGBTQIA+, go to…


For my own, Stealing Myself From Shadows continues with Christopher’s choice…

I felt the corners of my mouth lifting in response to his. He’d already given me light, two names, and a smile. A hand seemed a small thing to ask for in return. 

    I reached out, wiggling my fingers in delight, realizing that yes, I had a hand to give! It clasped Damian’s, feeling his slender fingers, trying to interlock with them. 

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#QueerBlogWed: Tales of Tayel

On March 16, 2022, P.T. Wyant posted a Wednesday Words prompt at ptwyant.com involving a lucky charm, a rainy day, and a maze.

This Tale of Tayel was the result…

The rain fell, revealing the rainbow dragon gliding between the drops, between realities in a shimmer of color. 

Tayel decided to take them for a sign of hope, bringing together the sunshine and the rain. 

“Come on, Tayel!” Danyel ran ahead, golden curls bouncing, the silver threaded within them flashing. He disappeared behind a hedge covered flowers, a hedge which cut off the view of the path ahead. 

This was wrong. There were no hedges this high, not in their garden. 

“Danyel!” Tayel cried, seeing the illusion too late, trying to catch up with his twin too late. A wall of thorny green blocked the way ahead. He could only go right or left. There was no sign of Danyel either way. 

“A maze, a puzzle of paths.” He and Danyel had seen pictures of mazes in books, but sometimes Tayel dreamed of cultivated hedges, guiding and tricking the walker into a central court where a beautiful statue waited and watched. Waited and watched for the ones to come to awaken him, to become his vessels in the game he played with his deadly bride. 

“No,” Tayel growled through closed teeth. He might have enjoyed solving such a puzzle if Danyel had been at his side, but his twin had been taken from him. 

“Desires granted, trickling out a greater desire.” He heard the faint laughter of boys his own age, voices like and unlike Danyel’s and his own. This was a memory ghost, a memory belonging to someone who refused to be ignored. 

“Is he really here?” The voice was very close. “At the heart of the maze?” 

“Come. I’ll show you.” The other was deeper, seductive with a wickedness that lured others into mazes with beckoning fingers. 

Tayel held his breath, saw the exquisite dark-haired youth, leading a younger one with coppery-golden waves. It might have been Leiwell as a child, leading Danyel or himself, but no. The dark-haired boy didn’t have Leiwell’s slender face or his emerald green eyes. Rose-purple ones gazed from under sly eyelashes, fixing upon Tayel for a moment as if he saw him, but he said nothing. He kept a firm, yet gentle grip upon the boy he was leading. 

The two of them ran through Tayel, passing through him as if he was a ghost. He shivered, spasmed, waking up in his own bed. 

“Tayel!” Danyel gazed at him, a tousled curl falling over his eye, right where he should be. At Tayel’s side. “Are you all right?”

Tayel released a shuddering breath and didn’t say anything. He just reached out to hug his twin.

Danyel, startled, hugged him back, filling his nostrils with the scent of sweat, fear, and something like dew on grass in the sunshine. Fresh and clean. His brother was warm and present. 

Trap Tayel in a maze, force him to face living statues, a ghost haunting someone else’s memories; all of that he could cope with. 

He just prayed no one would ever separate Danyel and himself. This was the one destiny he couldn’t cope with. 

Tayel swallowed and held on tight, wishing he could do so forever. 

He doubted he was that lucky. No matter how many rainbow dragons appeared in his dreams.