Conversations with Christopher: Peter

Troubled by Paul and Hebe’s words about Peter, Christopher walks into ever-darkening mist, sensing his own desires are guiding him as much as the Cauldron’s next guest’s. 

The darkness doesn’t abate. He finds himself in an enclosed space yet space is all around him, filled with rows of seats and a stage standing before him. 

Lights illuminate the theatre, the single wall of crimson damask which forms the set. Peter paces in front of it, wearing a high-necked yellow shirt, a loose cravat, a red waistcoat, and matching breeches. He pauses next to a marble bust of man wtih a stern, frowning face. 

Christopher stops in the middle of the aisle, looking across the empty theatre. There’s no one here, but Peter and himself. 

Christopher: That’s a new look for you.

Peter: (not looking at him) I was trying to figure out what to say to you. Trying to rehearse the words as if they were lines in a play. Behold! (He spreads his arms wide and does a little spin.) I found myself here, on stage! (He pats the bust upon the head.) Quite the amusing little turn of the surreal, isn’t it, you old rogue?

Christopher gives the bust a wary look. You never know who or what might speak in the Cauldron.

The bust remains silent, all dour frowns. That doesn’t mean it…or he…isn’t listening.

Christopher takes a seat in the front row. 

Christopher: Who’s that? (waving at the bust)

Peter: A liar. Or a historian. (He shrugs.) For Suetonian, they were one and the same. It wasn’t about painting an accurate picture of the past for this particular record-keeper. It was about telling an entertaining tale which would be passed from listener to listener. Embellishments were welcome, especially if they suited his needs. 

Christopher: Why is he here?

Peter: Old Suetonian? (He let out a strained giggle.) Strange to hear myself speak of him thus. How I admired him when I was younger! Paul thought I was mad to do so. Now he’s nothing more than a prop, a reminder of my own compulsion to tell a pleasing tale with only enough truth to make it nourishing. 

Christopher: Is that what you want to tell me, Peter? A pleasing tale?

Peter: Someone has to do it. I’m sure Paul won’t. 

Christopher: He’s worried about you. Worried about what he might do to you, what he might have done. 

Peter: (letting out another strained chuckle) A little late for that. 

Christopher: He’s also worried about what I might do to you.

Peter: What you might do to me? (He throws his head back and laughs.) 

Christopher: (flushing) He’s right. At least he is about me. I have a bad feeling he’s right about himself, too. 

Peter: The shadow and the hunter, oh no! (He raises a hand in a mocking gesture of stage fear and swooning.) 

Christopher: It’s true. 

Peter: Oh, yes, it’s so truthfully one side of the truth! (He paces across the stage and make a turn.) If there’s one thing you and Paul have in common, it’s a tendency to shy away from everyone else out of fear of how scary you are. I’ve never been scared of you. Either of you. 

Christopher: Maybe you should be. 

Peter: And maybe there’s a gentleness, a vulnerability in both of you you’re unaware of. A certain tenderness that puts you in as much danger from me. 

Christopher: Is that what you think?

Peter: I’m the one that lures you into Once Upon a Time’s mouth.

Christopher: I have a bad feeling that was a spoiler. 

Peter: He’s the beginning of all stories so it should be expected. Stories involve conflict, even outright hell. Hell has at times been a mouth. Why shouldn’t Once Upon a Time, everyone’s beginning be a mouth ready to swallow them?

Christopher: It’s a frightening image. I much prefer to think of Once Upon a Time as a Door opening to a path which takes us where we wish to go. Even if it’s the wrong path. 

Peter: That, too. It’s all metaphor, only metaphor, yet metaphor means more than anyone realizes until it’s too late. 

Christopher: (sighs) I’m afraid that’s true.

Peter: (pacing back until he returns to Suetonian) All my lies are true. Unlike this old fellow. (He pats the bust on the head.)

Christopher: (smiles, shaking his head) There you go again. Distracting me from your contradictory words with a joke. 

Peter: My dear Christopher, I’ve never met a more contradictory child than you. (He makes a sweeping bow to his audience of one.) Everything you do is a contradiction. 

Christopher: (frowning) How so?

Peter: You feed on the living, you feed on other shadows. You feed on life, vitality, passion, memory, and thought. All the while you scheme to give those things back. 

Christopher: Scheme?

Peter: Carrying the stone, the egg, giving life to those delectable twins. That was quite the mythological scheme worthy of an old god. Or godling. 

Christopher: (squirming uncomfortably in his seat) Not my scheme alone. 

Peter: No, it was quite collaborative. You helped a lot of half-empty people achieve their own dreams, get at least a piece of them back in the process. Stealing Myself From Shadows, indeed! 

Christopher: (straightening his shoulders) Perhaps I define myself differently than you do. 

Peter: Don’t be so sure of that. We were were both happy in the Navel, giving people what they didn’t even want back. 

Christopher: Are you saying you’re like me?

Peter: Yes and no. I’m not sure if I’d give as generously as you, although I may have to be brave enough to try. 

Christopher: Why?

Peter: For my wish to be granted. Like I said, you were entirely too generous, but I want more. 

Christopher: Generous? I don’t remember giving you what you wanted. 

Peter: Yes, you did. You and Paul are alike in this as well. You’re willing to give away everything you have, everything you are, yet you’re hungry void ready to swallow everything

Christopher: Which is why we’re dangerous to you, no matter how gentle or generous you believe us to be. 

Peter: No matter how gentle, generous, or hungry you might be, you’re no match for me. 

Christopher: What do you mean?

Peter: I was happier than I’ve ever been in my life with Paul. The closest I’ve come to that happiness was with you. At the same time I wasn’t satisfied. 

Christopher: Why not?

Peter: (taking a deep breath, pausing center stage) I want to make everyone happy. I want to make everyone love and worship me. 

Christopher: (sighed) I’ve tried making everyone happy. Or perhaps I’m going to try making everyone happy. I’m not happy with my chances of success. 

Peter: Neither am I, but it’s what I want. No matter how small my chances of success are. 

(To be continued) 

#QueerBlogWed: A Tale of Tayel

On February 2, 2022, P.T. Wyant offered at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving a shadow, a superstition, a tradition.

I do love it whenever she does a prompt involving shadows and nothing too clearly tied in this particular world. (heart) It’s an excuse to head for Omphalos. Any of the versions of Omphalos which you might find behind a Door. Or a place where an Omphalos was or is going to be.

Like the lonely cottage Tayel lives in, trying to pretend things aren’t going to change. Trying to pretend he can’t sense things in the shadows reaching out for him.

He’s not fooling anyone.

Seeing things in the shadows was just superstition.

“From superstition comes tradition.” Map muttered this between her pipe, puffing on it. A faint scent of rose petals, cloves, and something else rose in the air along with a hint of color only Tayel could see. “Bad tradition.”

“What do you mean?” Danyel had to ask. Had to look closely at Map’s tunic, the grayish-green, high collared garment with its half-silver, half-gold clasp of two dragons circling each other. A tunic she always wore over her homespun skirts. 

“You start seeing things in the shadows, you start chanting things to keep them away.” Map fixed her fathomless dark eyes, gleaming out of her weathered face upon Tayel, not Danyel. “Before you know it, it’ll become a prayer. A ritual you use to keep whatever you fear at bay. That prayer will feed your fear.”

Tayel flushed. Map knew. Somehow she knew about the little chant he’d started saying whenever the shadows started to move in the bedroom. Especially when they crept closer to Danyel and himself. 

“Light of the moon

Keep them at bay

Smile bright and broad

Keep the shadows at bay.”

The crescent moon did look like a smile. A slightly mocking grin which might grace a handsome face very like their brother, Leiwell’s. 

“I thought prayers were meant to summon something which would chase away what we fear?” Danyel crossed his arms, gave Map’s clasp a pointed look. “Even if it’s just our own courage?”

“Hah!” Map snorted, removing her pipe. “Your courage doesn’t need to be summoned. It’s already part of yourself. Anything else you might summon is more trouble than he’s worth.”

Tayel swallowed, dropping his head, allowing his hair to fall forward in a wave to shield his expression from scrutiny. 

He’d revealed too much already. He didn’t want Map or even Danyel to guess his fancies about the man in the moon. 

“He?” Danyel leaned forward, intent on that slip. “Is there someone in particular you’re worried we’ll summon, Map?”

“Just be careful.” The problem with pinning your hair up in an untidy bun was Map couldn’t hide her expression. The way her mouth turned down, her gaze shifted away to avoid Danyel’s. “Words have power. You never know you might be listening.”

“We’d know more if you’d tell us.” Danyel wasn’t about to let go of this. “Who might be listening, Map? Who are you afraid of?”

“There’s nothing or no one to be afraid of. Don’t let your imagination run away with you.” Map got up, moving away from the table, turning her back to the twins. 

“Don’t offer my imagination a carrot, encouraging it to run!” Danyel retorted, standing up from the table.

Tayel couldn’t help but giggle. They’d seen a picture of a horse in book recently, a horse with a carrot. How the horse strained after the fat vegetable dangled in front of it. The idea of Danyel’s imagination being that horse, trying to get to that carrot was only too apt. 

“Here I thought I was offering it a stick.” Tayel heard the smile in Map’s voice, even if she didn’t turn around. “Trust you to see it as a carrot. I’m going to bed.”

She trudged across the floor in the direction of her bedroom, never looking back until she’d opened the door. She offered the twins a tired, almost sad smile before shutting the door behind her.

Danyel gazed at the door with an open mouth. “She didn’t even try to pretend she was hiding something.” 

“It’s tiring, holding up a mask when you constantly seek to knock it off.” Tayel shook his head, pushing his hair out of his face. “Map has reasons for not explaining herself.”

“Why did she try to warn us against praying?” Danyel shook his head. “Map was herself part of a religious order. She’s never pretended she wasn’t.”

“Maybe that’s why.” Tayel shifted, glancing at the closed curtains. “Warnings about superstitions becoming traditions soften tragic truths.”

“You know what she meant.” It wasn’t a question. Danyel gazed at him, a troubled frown tugging at his lower lip. “You’re keeping secrets again. From me.”

“Superstitions become traditions. Traditions become a thicket of thorns.” Tayel wouldn’t look at his twin’s pleading face. “We may bleed if we brush our hands against them, but they’ll keep peril out.”

“Or you could stop the superstition from becoming a tradition.” Danyel reached out to take his twin’s hand. “You could tell me what’s making you superstitious. We could face it together.”

Yes. This would be the most direct way to face the problem. Only Tayel was afraid. Not just for himself, but for his brothers. Especially Danyel. 

He didn’t want Danyel to see what lay in the shadows. He didn’t want him to reach out for them, to try to get to know them. 

No, better to keep them away. Even if it meant embracing superstition instead. At least it was just Tayel. 

“Tradition becomes superstition when infused with too much fear.” Tayel shrugged, allowed himself to press his twin’s hands. “Summoning courage may be exactly what I need to do.”

“Do you really need to summon it?” Danyel studied his face intently. “Is there a particular source of courage you need to draw upon? Outside of yourself?”

Tayel cursed himself for being a fool. All this talk of summoning courage had aroused his twin’s curiosity. 

“No.” It wasn’t exactly a lie. “I shouldn’t need to.”

Danyel studied him and nodded slightly. It wasn’t clear if his twin believed him or not. 

Too many things lay unsaid between them. 

Secondary Characters Speak Out: Quartz and Paul

Quartz stumbles out of the fog, batting away a twig which landed almost directly on his nose. 

Quartz: Ruddy Shadow Forest. Makes me almost miss the Forest of Tears. No matter. Whatever trees loom over me, the twigs are rude. 

Paul: I’m sure the twigs regard you with equal courtesy. As for the trees, they are not part of the Shadow Forest, even if they have a similar nature, due to their shared mercurial creatrix. As you are well aware. 

Quartz starts at the voice, the youth sitting lotus style in the clearing by the river and at the golden dragons crouched on each corner of the temple’s blue roof. 

Quartz: Right. Now there’s ruddy dragons.

Paul: It’s not as if you haven’t made the acquaintance of dragons before. (He takes a sniff of the air without turning to face Quartz.) There’s a trace of brimstone still clinging to you. 

Quartz: Of course there is. (sniffs his own sleeve warily) Can’t say I smell it. What’s your dragons’s story?

For a moment the golden dragons seem to snap playfully at Quartz before settling down upon the roof. 

Paul: You said it yourself. There are mine, a manifestation of part of me. I couldn’t let seductive shadows and doubtful dwarves be the only ones with draconic allies. These may be small, but they’re young and fierce, stirring when I say. 

Quartz: Right. (He gives the dragons on the roof a sharp glance. They don’t respond.)

Paul: Either that or they’re simply part of the achitecture, animated by the strange nature of this Cauldron.

Quartz: So which is it?

Paul: Far be it from me to spoil your fun. I’ll let you decide.

Quartz: Right. And who are you anyway?

Paul: A secondary character. That’s what you do, isn’t it? Talk to secondary characters?

Quartz: Among other things, aye. (He smooths his beard.) Got something to say, do you? 

Paul: I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.

Quartz: Not very pleasant, are you? Coming from me, that’s saying something?

Paul: I’ve lost my more pleasant half. Peter was the one who wanted to please people. Without him, I grow increasingly unpleasant. 

Quartz: That what you want to talk about?

Paul: Among other things. You know the little shadow quite well, don’t you?

Quartz: There’s more than one little shadow running around in our scribbler’s scrambled imagination. You’ll have to more specific. 

Paul: The one who hosts this Cauldron when you’re not doing it. 

Quartz: Aye, Christopher. We’re from different worlds, he and I. Different stories. We meet here from time to time. Not sure if that’s the same as knowing him well. 

Paul: You have talked to him more than once. And he’s talked to you about the people from his world. 

Quartz: Aye, from time to time. 

Paul: What does he want with Peter?

Quartz: Why don’t you ask him yourself?

Paul: I’m asking you. A shadow’s words are as insubstantial as his memories. 

Quartz: (snorts) Got a low opinion of shadows, eh?

Paul: Am I wrong?

Quartz: Want keeps a shadow lingering beneath the trees in that Forest of theirs. From what I’ve seen, it gives them substance.

Paul: Right. (He turns his head to offer Quartz a humorless smile.) And what does Christopher want?

Quartz: From what I’ve heard? (He gives Paul a vicious grin.) Damian. Or the twins. He’s never mentioned Peter.

Paul: Of course not. (A flicker of sadness softens the beautiful mask of his face for a moment.)

Quartz: (his manner a little gentler) Just what do you want to know?

Paul: Shadows lure dreamers off their chosen paths to devour them. 

Quartz: Aye, if they can catch them. Makes me glad I’m just visiting this weird dreamworld of yours. Or a shadow of it. 

Paul: (nodding his head at the irony of this) Peter is one of the most hopeless dreamers I’ve ever met. (His full lips part in contemplation of a vision of something or someone far away.)

Quartz: Huh. Ever think it might be the other way around?

Paul: (dark eyes sharpening as they fix upon his companion) What do you mean?

Quartz: Maybe you’re the hopeless dreamer. 

Paul stares at him for a long moment and begins to laugh. 

Paul: Maybe you’re right. Peter certainly thought I was. 

Quartz: Here’s another thought. Maybe you should be asking what Peter wants with Christopher. Not what Christopher wants with Peter.

Paul: (turning his head back toward the river) I already know. Peter thinks Christopher is the key to his dreams, to opening a Door to the Shadow Forest.

Quartz: A shadow key to a Shadow Forest, eh? 

Paul: (grimacing) That and Peter always had an eye for a pretty face.

Quartz: Not a great beard. No accounting for taste.

Paul: (almost smiles and stops himself) I’m inclined to agree with you even while I disagree with you, dwarf.

Quartz: So your Peter wants Christopher and you’re worried what Christopher is going to do about it. 

Paul: I suppose I am. 

Quartz: What are you going to do about it?

Paul: Put a stop to whatever hold that little shadow has over my Peter.

Quartz: How’re you going to do that?

Paul: The moment Christopher lures Peter across the threshold of a Door, entering the Shadow Forest, I’ll snatch Peter. 

Quartz: Sounds like you’re a shadow yourself. 

Paul doesn’t reply. 

Quartz: Also sounds like you’re jealous as well as worried. 

Paul: (turning his head again toward Quartz with a bitter smile) Many monsters are jealous. Does this surprise you?

Quartz: Can’t say it does. 

He waits, half-anticipating Nimmie Not to pop out and say something. For once his kobold is silent. 

Something about this particular secondary character makes Nimmie Not uneasy. Too uneasy to make his usual claims to Quartz. This does not reassure Quartz.

Christopher and Peter had better be careful. 

#QueerBlogWed: A Tale of the Navel

On January 26, 2022, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt. This involved a top hat, ribbons, and a rabbit.

This Tale of the Navel, a freebie story for Stealing Myself From Shadows was the result…

A rabbit emerged from the top hat, only to be chased around by the angry chicken who leaped out of a bag with a wicked cackle. 

I scooped up the rabbit in my arms and hid behind a shelf, trembling along with my furry bundle. I didn’t like the hen any more than the rabbit did. 

“Enough!” Gabrielle clapped her hands together and glowered at the chicken. “Stop picking…or pecking…on people. Christopher and the rabbit have as much right to be here as you do.”

The chicken strutted back to the bag she’d come from. She let out a defiant squawk before stepping on it, returning to being an inanimate object. 

“This is why I almost never wear anything tailored.” ‘Brie smoothed the ribbons dangling from the top hat and glanced at me. “Come on out, Christopher. Let’s send the bunny home.”

I carried the rabbit, petting them reassuring before setting them down on the counter where the top hat lay on its side. They sniffed the opening before moving into the hat. 

Hat and bunny disappeared from sight. 

“That’s unusual,” I ventured. “Anything which comes to the Navel usually stays until the right person claims it.”

“The hat and the rabbit were memory ghosts from the past.” Gabrielle smiled, looking a little sad. “Here for a moment, long enough to rouse the chickens, only to disappear.”

“Why?” I glanced over with some unease at the motionless chicken standing on the bag. It was frightening enough when it didn’t move. 

“I’m guessing it has something to do with whomever the chicken and the bunny were once part of.” Gabrielle tapped a finger to her lips. “Everything in the Navel represents a memory, a thought, or an ideal. Something someone lost.”

“Or cast away.” I doubted the chicken’s owner wanted her. She was too mean. The way she glared at everyone with her beady eyes showed an angry temper. 

“Or cast away.” ‘Brie smiled over at the chicken, eyes softening. Yes, she had a soft spot for the feathered menace. I wasn’t sure why. “Those fragments find form and a home here before someone claims them.”

“Why do you do this, ‘Brie?” Damian had asked the same question many times. I didn’t mean it as a challenge. I was truly curious. “Why are you here at the Navel, helping people find those fragments?” 

“Sometimes you lose something before you realize its value.” Gabrielle closed her eyes for one moment. They were very bright when she opened it. “The Navel gives us a second chance to reclaim that something. What we do gives me hope.”

“Did you lose something?” I reached out for her hand. “Something you’re hoping will turn up here?”

“Yes.” She took my hand and squeezed my fingers. “I’m still waiting, but I haven’t given hope. Besides I’ve been surprised by what has turned up or who. Surprised out of my sadness a few times. Like when Damian brought you home.”

“He was trying to make you happy.” Something tightened in my chest. “He was planning to leave, but he didn’t want you to be alone.”

“No one can replace someone else.” She smiled with some sadness. “This doesn’t mean I’m not happy you’re here. Or that you’ve helped fill the void left by Damian’s absence.”

“Me, too.” I squeezed her hand again. “Thank you, ‘Brie. Thank you for welcoming me into the Navel.”

“You’re more than welcome.” She released my hand. “You’ll always have a home here, Christopher, until you tire of this place. Or its rules grow too restrictive.”

“What makes you think I’m tired?” I studied the wrinkles on her forehead, around her mouth. “I’ve never been happier anywhere than I’ve been here.”

Except Damian wasn’t here. He’d left both of us, taking some of the happiness with him.

Gabrielle nodded as if she knew exactly what I was thinking. “Happiness tends to be fleeting. You may find yourself chasing yours outside the door and far from here.”

“I won’t,” I protested, but something stuck in my throat, making it hard to get the words out. 

Wouldn’t I? The truth was, I didn’t know. 

I was waiting for Damian to come back. What if he didn’t come back? 

There might come a time when I’d stop waiting. When I’d try to find out wherever he’d gone. 

I glanced up at Waiting for the Rebirth, its riot of color streaked with white. Those streaks might be paths, paths leading through the shadows in a forest. 

Paths which Damian could be walking right now. 

Conversations with Christopher: Danyel and Tayel

Two doors appear in the tower wall. One is blue, the other is green.

An eye opens in the first door. It’s violet-blue with green and silver flecks in its iris. 

A hand reaches out of the second door; small, pale, glowing with verdure light. 

Christoper: (shakes his head) Two should become one. You don’t really want to separate.

The doors shimmer, sparkle, and slide together, becoming one large greenish-blue door. The eye winks, fluttering its eyelashes at Christopher. The hand beckons to Christopher.

Christopher leave the bank and wades into the river. He stretches out his arm, offering his own hand.

Christopher: I really shouldn’t be doing this. 

Tayel: (his voice comes through the door) No, you shouldn’t. 

The hand reaches out, becoming an arm covered with a white balloon sleeve. It seizes Christopher, pulling him through the Door (for it is indeed, a Door, a portal to somewhere else), into another place. 

For a brief moment, he feels the cool kiss and touch of shadows, seeing darkness. Light bursts out, shining from a sunlit sky. 

Rose petals are flying, entire flowers are floating. Not just roses. Tulips, carnations, daisies, marigolds. An entire floating garden, rising up as if the air was water and they were sea creatures. 

Christopher looks down to see the small hand holding his, attached to a boy with a heartshaped face framed by tousled silvery-golden waves falling to the shoulders of his green vest. The boy looks at him with large violet-blue eyes almost too big for his face. 

Danyel: (for that’s who the boy is) Should and shouldn’t are overrated, don’t you think?

Another boy who looks exactly like Danyel except for his blue vest and the silvery gleam in his violet-blue eyes scowls.

Tayel: Everything is overrated and underrated when clutched by grasping fingers. 

Christopher: (smiling in spite of Tayel’s scowl) Hello, Danyel. (He presses the fingers entwined with his, reluctant to let go.) Hello, Tayel.

Danyel: Hello, Christopher. We were hoping we’d find you. Or you’d find us. 

Christopher: I’m glad to see you. I’m also curious where we are. 

He breathes in, inhaling the flowers sweet scent. 

Danyel: Beautiful, isn’t it? Like our garden, only the flowers are no longer trapped on the vine. 

Tayel: (looking up) They’ve abandoned the green which nourished them. 

Christopher: Or the flowers have simply let go of the earth. Something they can do in this place. 

Danyel: We’re not sure what this place is. We just found it and brought you here. 

Tayel: Or the flying flowers found us. (He crosses his arms, ducking out of the way of a tulip which comes too close.)

Christopher: (releasing Danyel’s hand with slow reluctance) Want to see something else which can fly?

He moves away from Danyel, gazing at the drifting flowers. He visualizes a serpentine form with rainbow scales, streaking through the air. 

Christopher: Crowne, come out! (He pictures the soft, pearlescent colors, remembering the wonder he felt when he saw the form his power took. How would the twins react?)

Nothing happens. Christopher raises his hands and stars at them. 

Christopher: I guess I have to need Crowne for them to appear. 

Danyel: Who’s Crowne?

Christopher: A rainbow dragon. They manifested when I was with Quartz.

Tayel: (looking curious in spite of himself) Many manifestations are pranks. Especially when jealous kobolds watch. 

Christopher: No, this wasn’t Nimmie Not. This was me. This was part of my power, of myself. Only they’re not coming. 

Danyel walks up to Christopher, closing the distance Christopher put between himself and the twins. He rests a hand upon Christopher’s chest where his heart should be. 

Tayel: Danyel! (He blushes, makes a little movement as if unsure whether or not to stop his twin.)

Danyel pays no attention to his protest. He leans his head closer to Christopher and his hand, listening for something. 

Danyel: Crowne? Are you there? I’ve never met a rainbow dragon. Neither has Tayel.

In spite of himself, Tayel takes several steps closer to Christopher. 

Tayel: I’m sure you’re beautiful. Bringing hope to everyone who sees you. Christopher is too often without hope. He’s probably not sure if you’re real or not. If you’ve ever come out again. 

Danyel: Won’t you come out and meet us? All of us?

Christopher gasps, breathless, feeling a strange shiver of pleasure spasm in his chest, running through his entire body. 

A dragon’s head pokes out of his chest, golden-green with silver whiskers. They butt the boy’s hand, playfully encouraging a scritch. 

Danyel grins and obliges. Tayel lets out a low laugh and claps his hands, eyes shining. 

Christopher: (stares down at the dragon’s head) Like a memory ghost passing through me! Only you can touch it!

Tayel: Them. You’re full of surprises, Christopher, so many, they’re no longer surprising. 

Crowne lets out a purring chuckle like a cat, tinkling wind chimes, and a breeze all at once. They slither out of Christopher’s chest to glide around him. 

Christopher feels that strange, shivery delight again. It makes his eyelids flutter and his lips tremble while he sways on his feet. 

The dragon does a slow, teasing spiral in the air, very close to Christopher and Danyel before streaking over to where Tayel stands. 

Tayel: (who cannot stop smiling for once) Yes, you’re quite the charmer, Crowne. 

The dragon does the same spiral glide around Tayel before flicking out their forked tongue to kiss the boy’s nose. It’s Tayel’s turn to blush. 

Danyel: (it’s his turn to clap his hands) First time I’ve seen you at a loss for words or riddles!

Tayel shrugs, his face still flushed, and bows his head. 

Danyel: Thank you for coming out, Crowne! I’m Danyel and that’s Tayel. (He gestures to his twin.) I’m guessing you already know Christopher quite well. Or are you getting to know him?

Crowne angles through the floating flowers away from Tayel to glide around Danyel once more, flecking his forked tongue out to touch Danyel’s cheek.

Danyel: (it’s his turn to blush) Yes, you are beautiful. I can almost hear music when you move. Wind chimes and Christopher singing in a very low voice. 

Crowne twists, turns, and goes flying back to Christopher, sliding back into his chest, disappearing as if they never were. 

Christopher: Well. (a little breathless) That was Crowne. I hoped they’d come out to meet you.

Danyel: I’m glad you did. Thank you. 

Tayel: Seeing Crowne, seing that part of you gives me hope. 

Christopher finds himself blushing as well, but he nods, raising a hand to press it against his chest. 

Christopher: Me, too. 

Secondary Characters Speak Out: Quartz and Christopher

Quartz finds himself standing under a dark sky. Growling, grumbling with suppressed light. 

Quartz: Aww, shaddup. (Not expecting the sky to listen. It’s not like anyone else does.)

The sky gives one last rumble and is silent. The darkness begins to break, showing patches on sunlight. 

Quartz: Huh. It’s not like I expected you to listen. 

Makes him feel a bit guilty that the sky did. Being called out on his grumbling never made Quartz stop. Maybe this storm wasn’t as stubborn as an old dwarf.

The old dwarf in question takes a look around the river bank, noticing the slender youth in a high  necked black tunic and trousers, coppery-golden hair gleaming the growing light, curling around his ears and the neck of his collar. 

Quartz: Hmph. You again. As if you’re a secondary character. No matter what you say. 

Christopher: (not looking at him) You’re the one who keeps showing up in the worlds where I walk. 

Quartz: Scribbler’s got her mind on your worlds these days. (He looks out at the stream, seeing the tower.) What’s that?

Fused of darkness and light with rivulets of greenish color running through it like vines or veins, the dwarf couldn’t say this thing was stone. It lacked the low, pleasant, grounded buzz coming from the rock. No, this tower was louder, moaning in a low ghostly tone, as persistent as a kobold’s chatter. 

Quartz: (backing up a step) Saddest excuse for a rock I’ve ever heard. If one can call that rock.

Christopher: I doubt you would. Let’s see if I can improve it. 

The boy raised his hands. Light appears between them, dancing between his palms before it swirls into the air.

The band of light streaks toward the tower; flashing blue, green, red, golden, silver, purple, violet, rose. 

It circles the edifice, swirling around it, embracing it. The colors take on the shape of a rainbow dragon. The dragon raises their fuzzy muzzle, letting out a musical roar. 

Quartz: (blinks) Hello to you, too. Christopher, just what are you calling this dragon you’ve created?

Christopher: (gazing at the rainbow being in wonder) Is this the manifestation of my power, my will? I didn’t expect it to become a dragon. 

Quartz: Didn’t you?

The dragon fixes their crystalline gaze upon Christopher. They let out another musical roar and continue to climb to the tower’s crown. 

When they reach the spires, they start weaving it and out of the skeletal fingers. Delicate filaments of light are left behind, an intricate web connecting the spires. 

The dragon let out a final roar before vanishing. The web remains, becoming solid, gleaming. Imprisoning the bony spokes of the crown. 

Quartz: Think that’s an improvement, eh? 

Christopher frowns. Silver triangles appear in his eyes, flashing. 

Briars appear, growing upon the web, wrapping themselves around the strands and spires. Roses open, flowering in pinkish white, red, and bloody purple all over the vines. 

Christopher: Perhaps? 

The roses only bloom for a few moments before withering and turning black. 

Christopher: Or not. (He drops his hands, shoulders slumping.)

Quartz: (heaving a sigh) Aye, well, maybe it wasn’t meant to improve, lad. At least not for very long. 

Christopher: (looking from the crown to his own hands) Power shouldn’t be like this. I keep hoping to rejuvenate mine. Give it new life. 

Quartz: How?

Christopher: By sharing it. Giving it form and voice. A chance to reason with me. Even stop me from abusing it. 

Quartz: Haven’t you done that already?

Christopher looks down at the stream which still flows. He sees Tayel’s face, eyes alight with the same silver which flashed in his own. He sees Danyel, reaching out with a hand glowing with green light. 

Christopher: (raising his head) Yes, I have. I’m not sure if it’s enough. Or if I’m not expecting too much of the twins. 

Quartz: Maybe there’s a lot left in you, waiting to be let loose. Like that dragon. 

Christopher’s somber expression becomes thoughtful. A half-smile tugs at his lips. 

Christopher: You may be right.

Quartz: You’re as blessed and cursed as you want to be. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 

Christopher: Were you listening to my conversation with Dyvian?

Quartz: Heh, I’m always listening, even when I’m not there. Something the scribbler should keep in mind. 

(As I type this conversation up at my laptop, imagine a sweatdrop appearing on my brow. :))

Quartz: Not that it matters if I listen or if what I say is right. Not if you don’t hear what I’m saying. Really saying. 

Christopher: I think I do. 

Quartz: Right. While you’re doing that, consider this. Just what are you going to name that dragon? 

Christopher: Huh?

Quartz: That dragon which growls so pretty. The one that did their best to fix your tower, even if you’re not happy with the results. 

Christopher: I’m not sure if that dragon will ever appear again. They may have been a one-time manifestation. 

Quartz: Right. Just going to give up on the poor creature, eh? Not even giving them a name or a chance to appear again?

Christopher: (frowning) I didn’t say that.

Quartz: Seems like shadows could use a rainbow dragon to brighten their darkness. Especially you. 

Christopher: A name for a rainbow dragon. A rainbow dragon which became part of the tower’s crown or created part of it. (He raises a hand to stroke his chin, considering.) Names have power. Maybe Crownweaver? Since they wove a connection between each finger in the tower’s crown? 

Quartz: Not much of a name, that. More of a title or function. 

Christopher: How about Crowne? In the hopes that this little rainbow dragon may create a better crown than the tower has ever worn before? One that can disappear and reform, becoming stronger and more flexible? Even after the heavens vent their wrath against them?

Quartz: That’s a lot. Getting ambitious, aren’t you? Not to mention pitting your poor dragon against the heavens. Maybe all Crowne wants is to live, come out, and be named. 

Christopher: Why can’t they do all of those things while standing up to the heavens? Or at least picking themselves up and reforming after they’ve been struck down?

Quartz: There you go again, getting ambitious. At least you’re more cheerful than when Dyvian left you. Maybe Crowne put you in a better mood, eh?

Christopher: Or you did. Thank you, Quartz. (He smiles, a shy sweet smile very like Danyel’s or Tayel’s.)

Quartz: (waving his hands while his nose turns red) Now, now! Don’t you go smiling at me like that! I’ve got a jealous kobold, remember? 

Nimmie Not: (who doesn’t appear, but Quartz can hear him, speaking right into his ear) And don’t you forget it!

Quartz: Gah! (He disappears in a cloud of yellow smoke.)

A disembodied long-fingered hand, clearly not Quartz’s, waves at Christopher before disappearing as well.

Christopher’s smile turns into a grin. For a long moment he chuckles, looking up at the crown of briars. 

Roses are beginning to bud upon the vines again. They’re not flowering, but they’re beginning to bud. 

It’s something. 

#QueerBlogWed: Crystal Dreams and Kobolds

On April 6, 2022, P.T. Wyant posted at ptywant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving old clothes, a sword, and a goat.

This freebie story for Fairest and Of Cuckoo Clocks and Crystal Coffins (Quartz, our not-so deceased seven dwarf’s tale) was the result…

“Gah!” Someone drove a sword straight into the crystal. 

A goat bleated outside the rock where I rested my aching head. 

“Shards, Nimmie Not,” I growled acutely aware this was a dream, but that sword was inches away from my beard. A beard I hadn’t combed in far too long.

Shards, I wasn’t usually vain, but I tried to keep my beard tidy.

“You’re the one that dropped me into this cursed sleep so stop interrupting,” I growled more out of crankiness than any conviction he should. 

Maybe Nimmie Not should interrupt me. Maybe I’d been sleeping for too long. 

Clearly my kobold pain-in-the-behind thought so. “I’ll interrupt you as long as I wish, yes, I will!” 

If I could have flinched, I would’ve. Nimmie Not’s sing-song voice was right in my ear. Only I couldn’t move. I was stuck. Trapped in the crystal, in my own body. 

Which was real? The crystal or the dwarf? We both rose from the rock. Plenty of time to think about these things. Or if I didn’t have the time, my body wasn’t convinced. 

“Look at you on your back, smelling like old clothes. Maybe you’re waiting for a hero to come and pull the sword from the stone? Hmm?” I could feel his breath, tickling my earlobe. “Or a wayward princess who struck you down to try and deal with her own sleeping curse.”

“Being here is my own doing.” If only I could squint, peer through the crystal. Glimmers of green were visible. Hints of the Forest of Tears. “Or so you keep telling me.”

“Yes, yes, you got too close to human princesses and now you just lie there like a bearded princess yourself, waiting to be kissed.” Spindly fingers reached through the crystal to play with my beard. “Should I kiss you?”

“Thought I was no longer interesting.” I couldn’t speak, but I could think. Think the words as hard as I could at this annoying kobold, poking at me. “You decided I was no longer a Person of Interest. Your ruddy book was wrong.”

“The book is never wrong. It’s enigmatic, irritating, never comes out with the literal truth. Like those sneaky mirrors promising to show you something beautiful, yet never satisfying you.” Nimmie Not let out a loud sigh. “I’m bound to you, Quartz. You’re a large, heavy rock weighing me down, keeping me from skipping away. I really ought to punish you for that.”

I could almost see Nimmie Not’s wrinkled pout. It means he’s bored. It means trouble.

Like I’d ever admit I found it cute.

“Go ahead and punish me.” If I could have smiled, I would. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“No, you’re not. You’re one with the rocks you loved more than anything. The flawed crystal.” Refracted images of Nimmie Not appeared on all sides of me. “There’s no escape for you now.”

“Not sure I want to escape.” Shards, what was I saying? “Gotten used to the rock. Gotten used to you, too.”

“There you go, comparing me to your precious crystal.” All the images stuck out their tongues at me. “I’m not nearly as rigid, nor stubborn.”

“Aren’t you?” Maybe I was smiling. Wasn’t sure. Wasn’t sure if this was anything more than a dream. “You keep hanging around, even if though I’m being born.”

The scowl deepened on the face of every single Nimmie Not before he disappeared. 

Heh, it wasn’t like him to go away without having the last word. Made me almost feel bad.

Nah.

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

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QueerBlogWed: Blighted Heart

On December 22, 2021, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving an empty bottle, a log, and apples.

Apples always make me think of Oriana and Fairest. This story about Oriana during her darker hours came to me…

How she hated that apple tree, growing over the log right outside her father’s estate.

Once Oriana used to meet Blanche there. The apples always seemed ripe and red whenever she saw the princess. As ripe and red as the snow white beauty’s waiting lips. 

Many of the blossoms started to fall after her princess stopped coming. What fruit ripened was sour and green.

“This is your doing,” her stepmother whispered, making a warding sign with her hand. “You’ve blighted the land with your unnatural heart.”

Oriana no longer bothered to argue with her stepmother. She walked past her into the kitchen where ladies weren’t supposed to go unless they had something to discuss with the staff. 

There were a lot of things ladies weren’t supposed to do. 

She stopped at the sight of the empty bottle on the table in front of the little man with the red cap, a bell jingling from its floppy tip. 

“She has a point,” Nimmie Not said gravely even while his eyes twinkled. “Your temper could blight a tree, my dear.”

“What do you want?” Her heart nearly stopped in her chest. 

What if he wanted the magic mirror back? The mirror which was her only consolation? 

She’d taken to making faces, striking poses. Pretending to be Blanche. Saying all of the things she wanted her princess to say. 

Why bother? Why not be her lover? See only herself? Smile at herself? Enjoy her own beauty? 

Oriana was always here for herself. Which was more than she could say for Blanche. 

“Would you like to see her? See your princess?” The little man tapped his foot against the floor. 

“How is that possible?” Oriana leaned against the table. “She’s in the castle with the king. I’m not allowed anywhere near it.”

“Ah, but what if the king invited you in himself?” Nimmie Not stuck up a finger and wagged it at Oriana. “What if you had power over the king’s heart? Power enough to change his mind about seeing his daughter?”

“Power to change his mind,” she murmured. “No power is going to change his mind. No woman is allowed to love his daughter.”

“Ah, but what if he loved you?” Nimmie Not winked. “Loved you so much, all he could see if you?”

“The king?” Oriana recoiled a bit at this. A man twice her age. Blanche’s father. 

A man who outranked her stepmother. A man her stepmother was hoping to marry herself. Spending hours applying oils to her skin, plucking her eyebrows to impress, to bewitch. 

“If only I was your age!” That woman lamented. “It would be so easy to lead him around by the nose! All I’d need was a low-cut dress.”

Yes, it would be satisfying to dash her stepmother’s dreams to pieces the way she’d dashed Oriana’s. The very thought made her mouth twisted into a smile. 

“Are you suggesting I marry the king myself?” Oriana asked slowly. “Or simply become his mistress?”

To make love to a man she had no desire for. This seemed a far worse thing than to be with a girl she wanted more than anything. 

It was what countless ladies did. Including her stepmother. It wasn’t the king himself they found desirable. It was the fact that he was king, the power and wealth which went with his position. 

“Bewitch him and you won’t have to do anything,” Nimmie Not suggested. “Simply smile, flutter your eyelashes, and laugh at everything he says, darting away whenever he tries to touch you.” 

This was a game many a lady played at court in hopes to madden a man enough he’d marry her. 

“I don’t want to marry him.” Oriana closed her eyes. “I want to marry his daughter.”

What a relief it was, to state this shocking truth out loud. 

“I don’t see why you shouldn’t, my dear.” How kind Nimmie Not’s voice. “Only your fool human customs forbid you to.”

“They are foolish customs.” She tightened her fists. “They shouldn’t exist.”

“If you were queen, you could do away with them,” Nimmie Not wheedled. “If you were queen, you could do many things you cannot. You would be close to your beloved princess.”

“I’d be her stepmother.” What that woman was to Oriana. “That’s not what either of us want.”

“Ah, but you’d be in the castle with her. Close to her.” The kobold smacked his lips. “Isn’t that worth a little deception? Especially if you’re deceiving those who deserve to be deceived.”

Yes. Yes, it would be worth it. 

Oriana opened her eyes and looked at the little man who’d given her the magic mirror. Whom she couldn’t trust, but had been more dependable than anyone in her life of late. 

Including her beloved. 

“All right, kobold.” Oriana inclined her head. “Just what do you have in mind?”

Nimmie Not’s grin widened, becoming even more predatory. 

Once it would have worried her, but Oriana was moving past the point of caring. 

He was preferable to most humans right now. 

Conversations with Christopher: Quartz

Christopher marched across the empty field, mist rising beneath his feet. Ahead he could see the garden, his garden and Damian’s. Only the gate was gone. Nothing but the tall foxglove formed any kind of barrier between him and the flowers ahead. 

Christopher: Not that the gate ever was a barrier. It opened easily. 

Quartz: Wait up!

There is a stomp of heavy boots behind Christopher, following by a dwarf muttering in his beard. 

Quartz: Nasty look in the darkling glass, that woman. 

Christopher: You mean Map?

Quartz: Right. Thought I was suspicious of the outside world. Maybe even buried my head in the rocks from time to time. Got nothing on that Map of yours. 

Christopher: Why is she my Map?

Quartz: Mighty defensive of you, she is. Even if she’s pretending she’s not. 

Christopher: She threw me out of the cottage. 

Quartz: Aye, as she did me when I said something she didn’t like. Get the feeling she does that to a lot of people. 

Christopher: I’m not sure how that led you to believe she was fond of me. 

Quartz: Maybe she threw you out of her home for your own good?

Christopher: Or for her own good and her family’s.

Quartz: Aye, her family. (snorts) Not too impressed with her ways of protecting them. 

Christopher: What do you mean?

Quartz: She’s letting this lord who’s not really a lord have his way with one of her boys. Says the lad is willing. Hmph! She could do better than that. 

Christopher: I’m guessing the lord is Dyvian and the lad is Leiwell. 

Quartz: Didn’t mention the lord’s name, but yes, the lad was Leiwell. Know them, do you?

Christopher: (bares his teeth in what might have ben a smile) Oh, yes. I’ve had that pleasure. I’m having it the draft of Stealing Myself From Shadows our scribbler is writing. 

Quartz: Sounds like it’s anything but a pleasure.

Christopher: It was for Dyvian and Leiwell. Less so for Damian and myself. No, I can’t say it’s been all that pleasurable for them. Even so, I find it hard to forgive them.

Quartz: Right. You’re as fond of them as I am of Oriana in Fairest and Of Cuckoo Clocks and Crystal Coffins

Christopher: I understand why they did what they did. You get hungry in the Shadow Forest, especially if you’ve lost yourself. Or if you’ve just come into being. 

Quartz: Like you did. 

Christopher: Yes, like I did. Someone reaches out to you, offering you warmth, affection, a place, maybe even a person. It’s hard not to latch onto them, draining every drop of what they offer. Maybe even going beyond that. 

Quartz: Like you did?

Christopher: I controlled myself like I never have with Damian. They didn’t. Dyvian and Lewiell were waiting for us in the Shadow Forest. 

Quartz: Meaning you and Damian?

Christopher: And Peter. You should have him visit you for Secondary Characters Speak Out. 

Quartz: Not sure if he’s a secondary character. 

Christopher: I’m not sure if he is either. I’m not sure what Peter is. I’m not sure where he is.

Quartz: He was at the Navel, right?

Christopher: As was I. As was Damian. Until Doors opened for us into the Shadow Forest where Dyvian and Leiwell were waiting. 

Quartz: Sounds sinister. This is what the scribbler is working on right now, right?

Christopher: In Stealing Myself From Shadows. Right. I fear if I say any more it will be a spoiler. 

Quartz: Aye, the scribbler can be careless if we don’t stop her. Best let her get back to your story, so she can get back to my story.

Christopher: I was wondering when you were going to bring that up. 

Secondary Characters Speak Out: Quartz and Map, Part 3

It’s the same table with the same morning sunlight pouring through the window while Map and Quartz face each other. 

Who are Map and Quartz? A stocky woman with a weathered brown face lined as a tree trunk and an even stockier dwarf with a silvery black beard. 

Map: Strange how we can be at the same time and place while outside this Cauldron three weeks have passed. 

Quartz: Aye, strange. I blame the scribbler. Want to talk about strange things? Or one particular strange thing?

Map: I’m not sure how strange a thing he is. He’s not any stranger than my children are.

Quartz: He’s not, eh? 

Map: (slumping a bit in her seat) I suppose we’re all strange things if you put it that way. 

Quartz: Aye, we are. What bothers you about this particular strange thing? 

Map: He’s everything I’m not. Many things I find quite attractive. Only he appeared at one of my worst moments. 

Quartz: One of those destructive and stupid moments?

Map: Yes, those. He has a way of appearing whenever they happen. The first time he was quite young, but his eyes were filled with frozen color, reflecting back what I’d done. He’d captured it forever, making it part of himself.

Quartz: What did you do? 

Map: Brought down fire and lightning upon a crown of bone and gold, driving its lord out. 

Quartz: Why?

Map: He was luring people into his walls, promising to grant their wishes, to give them whatever they wanted if they worshipped him, giving him everything they had. Some of his victims were dear to me. 

Quartz: Can see why you were upset.

Map: Only I’m not sure if there was anyone left in the tower when the lightning came. The only one left was the boy. He appeared when I released my anger. As if he’d somehow been born from it. I’d never seen eyes like his. Pale lavender, ice blue, pink, silver, with a hint of green which swam with images. Things I didn’t want to see. 

Quartz: Sounds like Christopher’s eyes. 

Map: (standing up) He is nothing like Christopher! Nothing!

Quartz: (holding up a hand) Calm yourself, woman. Not saying he is. Just that eyes filled with different colors which reflect you back, or something you’ve lost? Something you didn’t even know you were missing? That sounds like Christopher.

Map: He claims to be like Christopher, but I don’t believe him. (sits back down)

Quartz: Why?

Map: I didn’t want to remember what had happened. He forced me to see, to remember. It’s why I turned away and ran from him. 

Quartz: Only he won’t let you.

Map: He’s followed me. I took shelter in a temple of women when they saw my true face. It frightened them. They turned on me. I got angry.

Quartz: Did something destructive and stupid again, did you?

Map: It’s why I live alone in this cottage, avoiding people. Most people. 

Quartz: Only you can’t avoid him. 

Map: Somehow he’s become the lord of the land this cottage is upon. Can’t help wonder if becoming a lord is his way of reminding me of what I’ve done. Not that he doesn’t enjoy luxury and power. Not to mention beauty. This is why he has his eye on my boys. 

Quartz: Fancies them, does he?

Map: The twins fear him, but my Leiwell is only too smitten with him. I fear this being may have given him a taste for power, wealth, and beauty. 

Quartz: Did you want those things? Once upon a time?

Map: Don’t say that name! (shudders) Why do you ask?

Quartz: What name? 

Map: I won’t say it.

Quartz: Didn’t realize I’d said a name. 

Map: Good. Keep it that way. 

Quartz: Confound it, woman, talking to you as maddening!

Map: Nobody is forcing you to.

Quartz: Aye, someone is. The scribbler. 

Map: (sighs) I suppose there’s no stopping her. To answer your question, this being took on life by feeding on memories I’d once had. The part of me I’d discarded. 

Quartz: How does that answer my question?

Map: I may have wanted those things. Power, luxury, and beauty. Once. 

Quartz: You’re not sure?

Map: I don’t remember. I’m not sure if I want to. I didn’t do good things with the power I had. Luxury had a price. Beauty, I’m still fond of beauty, but it can be found in many places. 

Quartz: Sounds like you were dangerous. Probably still are. 

Map: Why do you think I keep to myself?  She shudders.) Sometimes I worry about even having a family, but my boys ground me, make me better than I would be if I were completely alone. 

Quartz: Except you wouldn’t be completely alone. This lord is still watching you. You and your family. 

Map: He’s already reaching out for Leiwell, claiming Leiwell. 

Quartz: How?

Map: Leiwell decided to serve him of his own free will. He goes to this lord every night.

Quartz: (glances out the window) Does this lord live in the ruin? I don’t see much else your boy could go to other than that.

Map: There’s the garden. And the waiting woods. Many things linger there. Doors to leading elsewhere have been known to open in this area. 

Quartz: Like being mysterious, don’t you?

Map: No.

Quartz: Right. If you don’t want your Leiwell to serve this creature, why don’t you stop him?

Map: It’s hard to stop Leiwell when it’s his choice. He wants the little luxuries; fine clothing, books which his lord can provide. He wants his brothers to have them. He wants me to have them. 

Quartz: You don’t.

Map: Not if Leiwell returns looking like a ghost with his strength sapped away. 

Quartz: Tell him that. 

Map: You don’t think I’ve tried? He wants to serve his lord. I fear Leiwell loves this creature. 

Quartz: Here I thought my Fairest had terrible taste. Why don’t you just move? Or call the lightning down on this lord? 

Map: It’s hard doing that to him. He’s got powers of his own. He’s been gathering power from others, including Leiwell. Power by granting people’s wishes like the lord before him. 

Quartz: Shards, woman, he’s feeding on your boy. You could try. 

Map: You think I haven’t?! Bad things happen when I call the lightning. (She points out the window.) There’s a reason that’s a ruin and mine is the only cottage around. 

Quartz: So you’re just going to hide in this cottage and hope this lord goes away? Even if he may be in that very ruin?

Map: The less attention I give him, the weaker he gets. 

Quartz: Right. Only others are feeding him, you said. Including your Leiwell. 

Map: (scowls) Get out. 

Quartz: Right. (He gets up and goes to the door, stops before opening it.) Can’t say I don’t understand your attitude. Hide in a cottage or a mine. Keep your head down, try to cause no trouble, not attracting any trouble. Problem is trouble still finds you. Sooner or later. 

He opens the door and leaves, stomping away. 

Map just sits at the table, her head bowed.