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.