Paula’s Prompts: Wednesday Words

For a long time, I’ve had two Cauldrons, ever since I was published Torquere and realized this particular blog couldn’t share posts at theirs, that I needed a blogspot account as well.

I’ve been doing stories every week at  once on Wednesdays, keeping it going, even though I’ve been told I’ve got too many blogs. There are stories set up until October 14th. (I’m actually writing this post on August 4, 2020). Only they’ve changed the format and I’ve found I can no longer post my stories and poems there.

Maybe this is a sign. It’s time to abandon that blog and bring my Wednesday stories over here. I think I’ll try that, starting on October 21st, which should be today.

On July 1, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at  a Wednesday Words prompt involving a bird, a flag, the neighbors are fighting.

This poem was the result…

A bird is singing in the tree
A flag flaps defiantly in the breeze
Colors proclaiming values its wearers have forgotten
All the while the neighbors are fighting
Streets grow silent
Until people creep back again
Masked against infection
Or bare-faced, ignoring the danger, talking at their phones
All the while the neighbors are fighting
I get up, mourn what’s lost
A lifestyle I took for granted
Trying to piece together the fragments of normal life
Trying to piece together my imagination
All the while the neighbors are fighting
They’re never noticed the bird
The flag is only part of the background
They’ve never cared about its meaning
For once more the neighbors are fighting
Just what are they fighting about?
Promises of violence are carried in their screams
Words and communication lost in the noise
Only shrieks and bellows of frustration
They’re like trapped animals rattling a shared cage
Letting everyone know the neighbors are fighting.

Conversations with Christopher: Duessa

Christopher finds himself walking out of the mists of the Cauldron into a temple, deceptively open air, half-bathed in sunlight, half-drenched in moonlight, shrouded by shadow. Statues stand in the alcoves of nude boys with slender, developing physiques, arms lifted imploringly to a lover unseen. The pillars of the temple rise high above them, connected by a delicate lacework of cobwebs, becoming thicker and stronger as they rise out of sight. He can see the cocoon at the interstices of the webs, large enough to be the prison of a human being. Many of them are. The strands glisten with light, forming a pattern of deceptive beauty.

Duessa Ashelocke: Do you remember this place, tidbit?

Christopher turns to face the lady arachnocrat among arachnocrats. She moves with a slow grace, her slitted gown with flowing sleeves allowing space for each of her eight arms. Two of the left hold a candle and a glass goblet filled with sparkling liquid. Two on the right hold a knife and a coin. Her seventh and eight hands are free, one clenched in a fist, the other palm open in a gesture of benevolence. One side of her gown is black, the other is white, both pooling into a shadowy mass at her feet. The lady’s face is human save for the six additional eyes, some half-closed, others open. Duessa Ashelocke’s auburn hair falls in loose waves over her shoulders and down her back, yet there are knots, symbolic ties within her russet tresses when something is bound.

Christopher: Memories of you come and go, my lady. (He slowly turns to face her, wearing a tunic that fall to just below his knees, sandals, and a wreath of roses in his coppery-golden hair.) They emerge like a seductive nightmare or perhaps a nightmare seduction, only to fade away.

Duessa: Come, come. Is that all you can say of our Marriage Feast?

Christopher: (nodding at her seventh and eighth arms) I gave you those. Along with the power to reinforce the mists surrounding the Gardens of Arachne, concealing us from our enemies.

Duessa: Those mists have been there for some time, protecting the Gardens and its blooms from the world of men.

Christopher: Thus no boy is allowed to grow up, disturbing the tranquility of the Garden.

Duessa: Are we arachnocrats truly so bad to you? We’ve been much gentler with our boys than the world of men is with its rough, crude rituals and demands. You’re allowed to cry, to show your emotions without shame. No unnatural expectations of inhuman strength, stoicism, or demands of protection are forced upon you. You play all day in the sunlight within the Gardens, embracing quiet pastimes which you’d be mocked for outside. You’re allowed to hug, kiss, and love each other without shame. And when you discover true passion in your bride’s arms, when it’s drawn forth with her lips, hands, and fangs, you experience an ecstacy beyond any fleeting, fumbling passion a man tries to satisfy with an endless parade of living creatures.

Christopher: And any experiences after that ecstacy are lost.

Duessa: Better to have one more of pure joy than to stumble around life, never achieving it, and hurting everyone else in the process.
Christopher: And what’s left of the boy after you’ve feasted upon him is nothing but a statue.

Duessa: Preserved in a state of eternal beauty.

Christopher: (He pivots to face the alcove once more. He walks with slow, deliberate steps toward the frozen boy and reaches out his hand. He strokes the boy’s cheek with his fingers.) He feels very like marble. Do we turn into stone, Duessa, after you arachnocratic ladies have your way with us? Or do we still think and feel, even if we no longer speak or move?

Duessa: (lifting her other eyelids to fix her gaze upon him) You tell me, tidbit. (She takes a step closer of rustling skirts but stops, not quite closing the distance between them.) I had you here in this very temple.

Christopher: The Temple of Arachne, the Great Spider. The one you made a pact with to create the Gardens and the arachnocracy. After which you surrounded Mystere with a barrier of fog. Any outsiders who tried to cross the barrier would be lost in that fog, unless you wished it.

Duessa: I didn’t create the barrier. Stefan Ashelocke is the one who summoned the barrier.

Christopher: Stefan Ashelocke, the First Marriage Feast, whom holds a place of honor with the Gardens.

Duessa: Before that he was my lord and husband in a different Mystere and a very different time. You might say he was the…inspiration for the Gardens and this temple.

Christopher: What he did to you and the knowledge he brought you of how other women were treated.

Duessa: I’d been sheltered. His world and his ways were a shock. I wanted a sanctuary from all that. The price of that sanctuary, of freedom from our husbands, fathers, and brothers, of freedom from men in general was to become like the Spider Herself. To give Arachne the lives of our sons, nephews, and brothers while we feasted on those life forces ourselves before they could become men, like our husbands, fathers, and brothers.

Christopher: And when you took those lives, nothing was left but a statue, an immortal shell.

Duessa: Or so we thought. How is it that you still speak and move, tidbit? I drained you of your life, your energy, just as I drained Stefan and my two other Marriage Feasts. Why aren’t you a shell of your former self?

Christopher: What makes you think I’m not? I’m a shadow of what I once was.

Duessa: A shadow with will and purpose, very different than the other bridegrooms in this Temple.

Christopher: Maybe it’s because I’m not a bridegroom. (He turns from the statue to face Duessa, looking into all eight of her eyes. Two are the same rose-purple hue as Damian’s. Two are bright golden, slitted. Two are blood-red. And one pair is an all-too human amber. Perhaps they were Duessa’s original eyes before she became an arachnocrat. All of them look out of a woman’s face.) I was your Marriage Feast, my Lady Duessa, never your bridegroom.

Duessa: (taking a step closer) You desired me. I caught the scent of your desire awakening, like the fragrance of a rose.

Christopher: (making a slight bow) You are overwhelming, my lady. Just being in your presence is an experience unlike any other, even if one lacks the hunger for such experiences.

Duessa: You offered yourself to me willingly.

Christopher: I feared the fog around Mystere was weakening. I feared for the Gardens’s safety, for my sister, for…(he stops, looks down at his sandaled feet)

Duessa: You feared for Damian. You gave up your life to protect him.

Christopher: My memories of the Gardens, of this temple are fleeting, my lady, but you return them with the power of your presence. I told you. I was your Marriage Feast. Never your bridegroom.

Duessa: You loved Damian. You love him still.

Christopher: Didn’t you? Don’t you still?

Duessa: (stiffens) Damian is my nephew. (She averts all eight of her eyes.) Perhaps I am over-fond of him because of this. There is also his almost witchy cunning, his witty irreverence, his charm, and his beauty, which even in the Gardens of Arachne is considerable. He has a mind and a power behind his lovely face which I cannot help hoping he’ll have an opportunity to use. It’s a tragic waste that he wasn’t born a girl, that he can never be an arachnocratic lady. I could have shared everything with him if he was.

Christopher: Could you, my lady? From what I recall of the arachnocracy, the ladies were very jealous of the power in their arms and eyes. Jealous, suspicious of each other, and isolated in their suspicion. Plus there were those who didn’t fit in, who never embraced their arachnocratic nature. They simply lacked the appetite or the right appetite.

Duessa: You speak of Vanessa, you sister, when you mention jealousy and suspicious. The lack of appetite you’re referring to was my daughter’s. (She sighs.) Damian is stronger than Melyssa, stronger than Vanessa, too, even without an additional pair of eyes or arms. Fate has almost been cruel in gifting him with so much strength.

Christopher: And yet Damian can never be a rival for your power, not like Vanessa is. You have an ease with him you never show with your female kin. Plus he’s your nephew, so he’s safe from your hunger.

Duessa: If only the hunger was that simple. Vanessa keeps pestering me to give Damian to her. He’s ripe, he’s overly ripe for a Marriage Feast. Why do I hesitate to give him to the Spider’s ritual when I’ve told so many arachnocrats to give up their brothers, their sons, their nephews, even when they wept to sacrifice them? I’m betraying the very arachnocracy I established by sparing Damian. Perhaps I’m even betraying Arachne Herself. And Damian looks so much like my beloved Stefan, my former husband and betrayer as well as Marriage Feast. Damian’s very beauty seems like a warning.

Christopher: (gazing at her in growing alarm) You want Damian for yourself. You fear if you keep him too close to you, you’ll eventually take him for yourself. Or he’ll betray you as Stefan did.

Duessa: (heaves a sigh) I’ve used the excuse that he’s my nephew to protect him and have power over him, but Damian is not really my nephew. He’s Stefan Ashelocke’s son with another. I’ve used our alleged kinship to keep him at a distance, but it’s not enough. And now because of what I did to you, he has a grudge against me.

Christopher: This is why you sent him away with Gabrielle to Omphalos. To protect him from not only Vanessa and the arachnocracy, but from yourself. And to protect yourself from him.

Duessa: Possibly betraying all I stand for if Arachne decides this is so. Besides even if Damian is safe from me, from Vanessa, even safe from Arachne, he’s not safe from himself, something you’re only too aware of.

Christopher: Yes. (He lowers his gaze.)

Duessa: I’m hoping you, little shadow, will be more effective at protecting Damian than I was.

Christopher: I haven’t been thus far, my lady. (He lifts his head to show the swimming colors in his eyes.) I intend to change this.

Duessa: (for the first time lowering her head) For what it’s worth you have my blessing in your schemes.

Christopher: Thank you, my lady.

#RainbowSnippets: A Symposium in Space

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

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

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

For my own, Pausania will be continuing where she left off in A Symposium in Space…

Pausania lowered her hand to knot it into a fist at her hip. “Which makes me wonder what you could possibly want with those two cantankerous old life givers. Not to mention Phaedra and myself.”

“I plan to reveal that to all of you…if you come.” The ball moved away to hover in the open window. “I hope curiosity will temper caution.”

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Secondary Characters Speak Out: Quartz and Christopher

Quartz is back and he’s seated in a chair too big for him, scowling at the slender youth sitting opposite him.

Quartz: One, I’m still not convinced you’re a Secondary Character, Christopher.

Christopher: It depends on what book…or story…I’m in.

Quartz: You’re the main character in Stealing Myself From Shadows, which our slug of a scribbler is still revising.

Christopher: You’re the main character in Of Cuckoo Clocks and Crystal Coffins, congratulations on the rough draft, by the way.

Quartz: Doesn’t matter. The scribbler wants everything in the plot and its subplots just so so she’s rewriting the whole thing. Right. I’ve seen how she dithers over your stories with that excuse.

Christopher: Like The Hand and the Eye of the Tower, which I am a secondary character in.

Quartz: As if you have anything to complain about. I was a deceased secondary character in Fairest which is once more homeless and off the market.

Christopher: I think our scribbler is realizing she’ll have to deal with self-publishing. She’s running out of excuses to put it off.

Quartz: Aye, which is why she picked up Stealing Myself From Shadows, returning to its long-neglected revision.

Christopher: She’s working on a draft that merges Waiting for Rebirth, Unwilling to Be Yours, and Be My Valentine…Snack with the rest of Stealing Myself From Shadows.

Quartz: Makes sense. Waiting for Rebirth shows your major motivation for everything you do in Stealing Myself From Shadows, being Damian, Damian, and oh, right, more Damian.

Christopher: It’s not all for Damian.

Quartz: Right. Some of it’s for Danyel and Tayel, some of it’s for Peter, but it’s mostly about Damian.

Christopher: True. Sort of like how you’re trying to make your motivations about family, the crystals, living a simple life until your Fairest comes along. It’s never about Nimmie Not, at least you won’t admit it is.

Quartz: That’s nothing alike! Well, perhaps a little but not much!

Christopher: Quartz, readers will see things from your perspective in Of Cuckoo Clocks and Crystal Coffins, events which were seen briefly or summarized in Fairest. There’s no point in denying your feelings.

Quartz: I’m not denying them!

Christopher: We’ll also learn the origin of Oriana’s magic mirror, won’t we?

Quartz: Shards, the amount of junk in Prue’s lair mixed up with treasure is staggering. Seems any kobold can just walk it and carry something dangerous out…hold your boulders! Stop distracting me!

Christopher: I’m distracting you?

Quartz: Aye, not just from your needling, but from my original second point!

Christopher: Which is?

Quartz: Two, I usually do Secondary Characters Speak Out at the end of the month! You booted me out of my usual spot with your multi-part vacation with Damian.

Christopher: Oh, sorry, did you want to go on vacation with Nimmie Not? It’s not my fault if you missed your opportunity.

Quartz: (nose turns a furious shade of red) That’s not the point!

Christopher: First, I didn’t exactly go on vacation. That journey with Damian was all part of Conversations with Christopher. Second, Mondays at the Cauldron are not your usual spot. Your usual spot was taken from you when the Formerly Forbidden Cauldron ran dry due to upgrades. You came here after that happened and started booting me out monthly for Secondary Characters Speak Out.

Quartz: You get so sassy after spending time with Damian. As if you’re not here most Mondays.

Christopher: There’s been booting on both sides, thanks to our scribbler.

Quartz: Right. It’s all the scribbler’s fault. (He pauses.) Come to think of it, it is.

Christopher: Isn’t it usually?

Rainbow Snippets: A Symposium in Space

Welcome to #RainbowSnippets!

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

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

For mine, Phaedra try to catch up with what everyone else was talking about (everyone being Pausania and the orb) in A Symposium in Space…(this is slightly longer than six sentences long for clarity’s sake, forgive me…)

At least I’d heard of Aristophania. Her webcasts were hilarious, although Pausania and others muttered that she was quite dated and stale in her routines.

“Sokrat and Aristophania.” What appeared to be an eyelid lowered in a coy fashion over the orb while regarding Pausania. “You cannot accuse either of them of being simply what’s trending.”

“No, I can’t.” Pausania lowered her hand to knot it into a fist at her hip.

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Conversations with Christopher: Never Forget

The mists of the Cauldron part, broken by sunlight. Damian and Christopher appear within their garden once more with the gazebo nearby.

Damian: I needed to remind you of the places where our story takes place. You’ve hidden behind your role as narrator in this Cauldron for too long. You’ve distanced yourself from the Shadow Forest and you’ve distanced yourself from me. You’ve become a spectator in Quartz’s story and a sounding board for the characters in his tale.

Christopher: Aren’t you forgetting the role you played in taking me from the Shadow Forest? Not to mention you took the Shadow Forest itself from me in exchange for your life at the Navel.

Mists creep up over the roses and greenery, rising to block up the sun, blocking out everything. They clear to reveal the walls of a little shop filled with dusty light and shelves covered with crystals, carved boxes, dolls, and far more bizarre things. Statues of women with the heads of roosters let open their beaks in defiance as to statues of men with the heads of hens. These give to brightly painted statues which might be gods, again with chicken heads, opening their beaks to cackle with pride over their places on dominance within the center of all things bizarre, masquerading as simply an odd little shop.

Damian: (turning around to gaze at a particularly obnoxious poultry deity) How I hated this place, hated it as much as the Gardens of Arachne in a way. Now the Navel is almost…nostalgic.

Christopher: You tried to take my place in the Shadow Forest remember? You gave me your life with Gabrielle working in the Navel instead.

Damian: Of course I remember. I’m not sure if you remember. You’ve gotten so lost in all these Conversations with Christopher.

Christopher: I’m always lost, Damian, until you find me.

Damian: And I’ll always find you. (He lifts Christopher’s hand to his lips.) Just don’t forget me. No matter whose story you’re narrating, don’t forget me.

Christopher: Never. (Tears fall from his eyes, shining, multi-colored, yet the rose-purple, the color of the Ashelocke rose, rises to the surface as the many swimming hues in his irises.) No matter how mysterious or maddening you are…or I am. I’m part of you, Damian. Just as Danyel and Tayel are part of me.

Damian: You’re far more than that, Christopher. I just hope our scribbler gives you a chance to show everyone how much.

The mists come a last time to swallow the Navel and the two holding hands within its walls.

#RainbowSnippets: A Symposium in Space

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

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

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

For my own, Phaedra will continue where she left off last week in A Symposium in Space…

Perhaps she was right. I had no idea who Sokrat was.

Pausania did, judging from the way her eyes widened. “Sokrat? How did you manage to persuade her to come?”

“I believe she welcomes an escape from the affections of her overly enthusiastic beloved. Thus she will be honoring us with her presence at this gathering, along with Aristophania.”

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Conversations with Christopher: Within Walls of Stone

Christopher and Damian continue their conversation and their journey where they left off last week…

…the two of them are surrounded by stone walls. The only illumination comes from the yellow-green torches stuck in the walls, flickering like trapped ghosts. They cast a shadowy light upon the tapestries, the single chair in the chamber, a stone throne with a pattern of skulls and roses.

Christopher: (looking around) I’ve been there with Danyel. I drew him from this tapestry as you drew me from the shadows, only he already existed.

Damian releases his hand. Christopher draws closer to one of the tapestries, depicting a faded image of slender boy with a pale face and hair. The boy flings his frail arms around a monstrous, yet beautiful beast, a beast with fangs and fur. Only the image of beast changes. At times it has scales. At others it has a carapace and many limbs. Whatever the creature, it could crush and devour the boy. It wants to. Christopher can feel the hunger radiating from its mouth, but the youth’s courage and innocent affection stops the monster before it can devour its prey. The boy’s bravery makes the creature question the hunger itself. All these emotions Christopher can feel radiating from the imagery unless he’s simply interpreting them as such. For the boy in the tapestry looks very much like Danyel, not his twin. Nor is the boy unlike Christopher himself.

Christopher: Or…will I come here in the future? Once more, time is becoming blurred in this place.

Damian: It always does. (He is now wearing a stiff lace collar, a velvet vest, and tight matching pants.) Look at me. I’m like and unlike Stefan. I wonder if Aunt Duessa didn’t dress me like this to remind herself of her lost husband…and to emphasize how different I am from him.

He gestures to the second tapestry, which shows a woman, pale, nude, smiling. Her long auburn tresses writhe and quiver like serpents, her many arms embrace the same beast menacing the boy in the first tapestry. Only the beast favors a more reptilian form, staying in that shape. This beast snarls with hunger and anger, baring its fangs. It doesn’t choose not to strike as it did with the boy. It cannot strike the woman for she holds it captive. Only one pair of eyes upon the woman’s face are open, although she has many eyes. Most of them are half-mast, filled with a coy hunger equal to the beast’s for in restraining it, she has become more monstrous than the monster.

Christopher sees this and turns away from the tapestry.

Christopher: Why have you brought me here? Why are you showing me this?

Damian sits down in the stone throne, looking entirely too comfortable and regal in his hard seat.

Damian: (raising one arm to rest his chin upon the throne’s arm to regard Christopher) All I’m doing is reminding your of our story. Of us.

Christopher approaches the throne and drops to this knees. He places his hands upon Damian’s knee, bowing his head.

Christopher: If you wish to remind me of us, let’s return to our garden in Omphalos. I feel as if we are ourselves yet not ourselves within these walls. We’re becoming someone else the longer we stay here.

Damian drops his arm to press his hand over Christopher’s.

Damian: There’s truth in your words, yet we are ourselves here, Christopher. These walls are a part of our story as much as where I summoned you in Omphalos or the Gardens of Arachne. It’s been too long since our scribbler thought of these places.

Still holding Christopher’s head, Damian bows his in turn. Mist oozes through the stones, swallowing the sickly light from the torches, the very walls themselves, everything except for Damian and Christopher.

To be continued on Monday; October 5, 2020…

Rainbow Snippets: A Symposium in Space

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets! Every Saturday or Sunday, those participating post and share six sentences from LGBTQIA+ stories on their blogs. It can be their own. It can be someone else’s. It just needs to be LGBTQIA+.

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

For my own, Agathea…or rather her orb…will continue to taunt, err, tantalize, and coax Pausania and Phaedra to come to her little gathering in A Symposium in Space...

“Ah, but would I be inviting Sokrat if that were true?” A sly tone laced with humor emitted from the mechanical device.

I wondered if Agathea had given it her voice. What projected from the orb was such a caressing, sensual tone. It rivaled Pausania’s own for the levels of malice it could deliver, wrapped in a disguise of courtesy. I wasn’t used to this level of complexity in a simple communicator, but I was behind the times. Or so Pausania kept telling me.

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Conversations with Christopher: Damian

Christopher wanders through the mists alone. There’s a faint humming in the air, almost a suggestive whispering. He closes his eyes, stretches out his hand, searching with his fingers.

Christopher: If I wish for you the way you once wishes for me, will you appear?

Strong, slender fingers grasp his, holding onto his.

Damian: This is the Cauldron of Inspiration, is it not? Anything is possible beyond the fourth wall, between all walls. Much like the Shadow Forest itself.

Damian Ashelocke steps forward, wearing a black leather jacket over a white poet’s shirt, and tight leather pants. His dark hair is damp, dissheveled, falling forward over his pale brow, ending in waves at the nape of a slender neck. He slants his rose-purple eyes in a humorous squint, yet his face is grave.

Damian: Of course I’ll come to you, Christopher, if you wish for it.

Christopher: You think I haven’t been wishing for you?

Damian: I think you’ve been distracted by Quartz and his story. You’re very close to the scribbler and her thoughts. Closer than any of her other characters perhaps. Isn’t it time you spared a thought for your own tale?

The mists parts to show a garden path leading to a hill, lined with rosebushes. The thorny vines burst with blossoms the same hue as Damian’s eyes.

Damian: If I don’t force you to blossom, you’ll wither on the vine. Do you remember these flowers? They’re Ashelocke roses. They’re here in Omphalos but also in the Gardens of Arachne.

Christopher: Must you bring up the Gardens of Arachne? I’d rather not return there.
Damian: Oh, Christopher. You and I always return there, one way or another.

The mists creep up and swallow everything but the rosebushes. The paths realign, twisting into mazes. The gazebo nearby, crouching like a wooden beast protecting its secrets disappears. It becomes another part of the lovely sunlit twists of thorns and briars, carefully cultivated to form a spiral, turning and twisting inward.

Christopher: For every boy in the Gardens of Arachne, the paths have a single destination. Always from manhood and into his bride’s arms.

Damian: Not every path and they don’t have to end there. Come. (He’s still holding Christopher’s hand but he’s wearing a white tunic, revealing slim legs, taunt with slender muscle. Flower petals, more of the Ashelocke rose are caught in his hair.) It’s been to long since we visited Stefan Ashelocke.

Christopher: Perhaps not long enough. (He reaches up to touch his own coppery-golden locks, the same length as Damian’s. He, too, has the same rose petals in his hair, a wreath of them. Crowned with flowers as every boy is when he goes to his bride, yes, he remembers those days and nights.) Stefan sacrificed his life so that the Gardens of Arachne could bloom. Stefan was the very first Marriage Feast to satisfy an arachnocratic lady’s hunger.

Damian leads Christopher around a turn bursting with thorny briars. More of the rose purple flowers develop upon the vines. The two youths take a left. Each petal cries for a young boy’s voice, yet it’s only the faint whisper of the vine. The path twists, offering two ways. Damian leads Christopher to the right. Look close enough and see the webs, linking each of the roses. The two boys, for now they are just boys walk straight for a while, hand in hand until they come to another fork, the tangle of green rising high above their head. For it is a tangle with thin strands of spun between thorns, glistening as if tears clungs to them. Damian took another right. Now you can hear the cries of women weeping. The two boys walk straight amidst the sobbing, the rosebushes rising high into hedges, blocking out the sun, all other noise. How the webs weep, with the voices of those whom became lady monsters; aloof, powerful, too hungry for this oasis, for dominance after being dominating. They had allow their hunger to rule their hearts, to become arachnocrats, a court of elegant worshippers of the Spider whom resides in them all, engaging in a gracious dance of predator and prey, a ritualized matriarchy of sacrifice to escape the crude patriarchy which once existed upon these grounds. The many-limbed ladies see, remember, and weep. The roses are all the lovelier and more innocent, flowering in sheltered tragedy amidst their webs.

Christopher remembers and senses this, hand in hand with Damian. He feels his eyes fill with tears for both predator and prey, those whom can’t escape this, but there’s one more turn to the left before the two boys reach the enter of the maze. Gravel gave way to smooth sandy stone beneath their sandaled feet. The walls of hedge and briar retreat, allowing the still stone figure at the center of the open courtyard his space.

Damian lets go of the other boy to approach the white statue, the figure of a young man who is the exact likeness. Only this young man wearing a doublet over a high-necked tunic, wiry legs covered with hose.

Christopher: (shivering for Stefan casts a long shadow even in his stillness) I’d almost believe he was a statue. Only he’s more than this. He’s immortal. He’s what’s left after the Lady Duessa devoured him in a Marriage Feast.

Damian: Before that, he was Aunt Duessa’s husband. The last husband in these lands to live with his wife in a castle with towers before the Ashelocke estate and the Temple to the Spider were erected. I wonder how willing he was to submit to his lady’s fangs in truth?

Christopher: What are you saying?

Damian: Before the Gardens of Arachne with its mazes and shrines to Marriage Feasts past, there was this.

He raises his hand like a sorcerer summoning forces from another world. Perhaps Damian Ashelocke is exactly that. For he once summoned Christopher from the shadows and now he summons the mists of the Cauldron.

They come to him, swallowing the sky as they do, the statue, the very Gardens of Arachne themselves. Damian lowers his hand to grab Christopher’s before he can disappear, before they both disappear.

To be continued on Monday; September 28th, 2020…