#RainbowSnippets: Stealing Myself From Shadows

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

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

To sample different LGBTQIA+ stories, go to…

https://www.facebook.com/groups/RainbowSnippets/?multi_permalinks=8499083260161661&notif_id=1673661375997982&notif_t=group_activity&ref=notif

For my own, Christopher observes Damian’s own reaction to ‘The Navel’ in Stealing Myself From Shadows

“Come on in,” Damian opened the door, setting some chimes on the other side to tinkling. He ignored the sign completely. 

     Perhaps he was accustomed to the sight of people’s bellies. The thought caused the heat to rush to my cheeks.

     Damian held the door open for me for a slight bow. He studied my face, allowing a tiny smile to dance upon his lips. 

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#QueerBlogWed: Map Mutters Part 1

On June 1, 2022, P.T. Wyant posted a Wednesday Words at ptywant.com. It involved a birthday, a bet, and an old woman staggering down the street.

This swelled into not only a Tale of Omphalos (an Omphalos without the Navel in it), but a Tale of Map. Muttering. A lot. Only she was overhead. Bumped into an old student from another life and the tale swelled. It became two parts. Eventually three.

This is the first part…

Map was fortunate enough to be old as she felt, much of the time. Right now she felt ancient. 

The weight of her memories left her staggering down the street, an old woman bent with guilt. Memories of a night when the sky turned red and the air filled with screams. 

He’d been born on that night, the worst of her memories, fleeing laughing into the darkness, red bleeding from his hands. Born in blood, guilt, and rage, manifesting before like a demon summoned by a sacrifice. 

She hadn’t summoned him, but he’d come. How many years had he lived on this world or some other? As many as she’d spent, wandering from place to place, trying to forget him. 

How like him to find her here in Omphalos, in the place she could finally call home. How like him to style himself a lord, declaring himself master of everything that was hers. 

“Lord Dyvian Ashelocke,” she growled through gritted teeth. Knowing she shouldn’t. Knowing by saying the name he’d chosen adorn, she was only giving it weight. 

How he’d smiled at her at the party, flocked by adoring villagers, Juno cooing at her elbow. Smiled at her, mocking her with the glint in his eyes. 

“It’s actually his birthday,” Ashleigh had whispered into her ear, almost giggling. “He especially wanted to meet you and the boys.”

Of course he wanted to meet Map now that something to lose; Leiwell, Danyel, and Tayel whom she regarded as her own sons. Of course he’d popped up when she was finally reunited with Ashleigh. 

Shall we make a bet, dear master? Oh, my apologies. You call yourself Map now. Don’t you?

“As if you didn’t know,” she growled under her breath. Not that she’d dared to at the party. 

She couldn’t let them know. Not Ashleigh, not the boys. She couldn’t let them know what she’d done. 

Don’t look at me like that. I wouldn’t exist if not for you. 

“That’s right,” she muttered, paying no attention to anyone who might be staring. “I’m to blame for bringing a Seraphix-damned vampire like you into the world.”

I’ll bet you I can win the hearts of all three of your boys, bringing them into Seraphix’s embrace. Not just our lovely Leiwell, but doubting little Danyel and timid Tayel. They’ll accept a place at our side as shadow, hand, and eye in the Followers of Seraphix.

“As if you’re on anyone side by your own.” She kicked savagely at the ground, aware that this wasn’t entirely true. Not if the tender look he’d stolen at Leiwell was genuine. 

Even worse had been the radiance in her oldest boy’s face when he looked back at his “lord.”

We’ll build a tower of our faith, make it greater than it’s ever been, no matter how often you try to beat it down. 

“It’s one thing to sense that the tower is more than it seems. Another to join with it.” She stopped in the road and glowered at the young woman gazing back at her. 

Bloody Seraphix, she knew this girl. Knew her round, guiless face, her dreamy hazel eyes which widened at the sight of her. 

(To be continued next Wednesday…)

Conversations with Christopher: Maia

A castle made of gold shimmers and straightens in the ever-changing mists. It becomes a sparkling skyscraper, a tower made of glass, flashing and teasing amidst the fog. 

Its light becomes a beacon, beckoning Christopher, luring him out of the mist onto a waiting patch of grass with a clear view of the skyscraper, rising into the heavens like the ambitions which formed it. 

A woman with short dark hair gazes up at its walls, a slight smile playing upon her face, a dark cape fluttering from her shoulders. She fidgets with a top hat in her hands as if she isn’t quite sure what to do with it. 

Christopher: Maia, isn’t it? I’ve met you before, but I’m not sure if I’ve been here. 

Maia: Here? This place doesn’t exist. I dreamed while slaving away in an old-fashioned factory which was the heart of Verity. 

Christopher: Why?

Maia: (laughs, transferring the hat to one hand) Why? For I am Iama the Terrible! (She flourishes her hat in the direction of the skyscraper.) And this is my castle of gold. Or perhaps I should say tower?

Christopher looks up at the sparkling walls, gleaming with golden light. For a moment, its glass turns a brilliant, hot white with a bony crown reaching out of the top with skeletal fingers. 

Maia: (shielding her eyes with her hat) Ow! Stop that!

Christopher: Sorry. 

The stones darken with black tears, whimpering. The sky grows dark, filled with rumbling clouds, outraged at the spokes daring to reach for the heavens. 

Maia: That’s not my tower. 

The clouds part, revealing the sun. The darkness drips down the walls of the skyscraper, pooling at the base, leaving it golden and gleaming once more. 

Christopher: (not looking at her) What’s the difference between a castle and a tower?

Maia: (giving him a sideways glance) Well, I suppose they’re both fortresses. You can barricade yourself inside either. Only a castle somehow still feels like a home. A tower is a prison. 

Christopher: A tower can be a home. A tower can part of yourself, but yes, a tower can be a prison. Locking you inside, making you feel powerful and safe.

Maia: It’s just a feeling. You’re not safe. (She looks back at her tower.) Isolation is not safety.

Christopher: (offers her a sad smile) No, it’s not. 

Maia: The white tower, the black tower. Which one did you hide in?

Christopher: Both and neither. 

Maia: You do like your riddles. 

Christopher: You like your tower.

Maia: I used to like it. I let it go, along with with the ambition that created it. 

Christopher: Leaving it behind in the Shadow Forest where it bubbles up once more in this Cauldron. 

Maia: Those are your words, describing your world. Not mine. 

Christopher: Why are you here? Why do you still call yourself Iama the Terrible if you’ve left your castle…tower…of gold?

Maia: (letting out a sigh) She’s still part of me, even if I’ve left her dream behind. I’ve got her princess. My princess. I’ve found I’m weak without her. 

Christopher: Are you?

Maia: I thought I was the strong one. The provider. The one who took care of her and our sister. Nathalie and Grace ended up having to save me. 

Christopher: Does that make you weak? Or wiser?

Maia: (chuckles again) Wise enough to realize I’m weak. 

Christopher: That’s something, isn’t it?

Maia: Yes, it is. Like saying goodbye to the tower. I have something better now. 

Christopher: (turns to gaze at her as if he’d just seen her) Something better?

Maia: Sure. I have my girls; Nathalie and Grace. No tower can compare to them. 

Christopher: No. (He looks up at the walls, not really seeing them.) It can’t, can it?

Maia: You have something, don’t you? Or rather someone?

Christopher: What?

Maia: Someone better than the tower. I never would have dreamed of this place, desired to build it if not for them. Only it kept me from them, from being parts of their lives.

Christopher: (looking down) I suppose it does.

Maia: Beware of your own walls, Christopher. Don’t let them come between you and the ones that truly matter. 

Christopher spins around to stare at her, startled, but Maia is already backing into a cloud of mist, blowing him a kiss. She disappears. 

He turned to look up at the skycraper which turns white, black, growing luminous with colors. Its windows are no longer opaque. He can see faces in the window, looking out at him.

Christopher: Thank you…Iama. I’ll keep that in mind. 

He starts walking toward the tower, the mist rising beneath his feet. 

Want to read more about Maia/Iama and her girls? Here are buy links to Wind Me Up, One More Time; their story…

Mischief Corner Books/Shenanigans Press: https://www.mischiefcornerbooks.com/store/p161/Wind_Me_Up%2C_One_More_Time.html#/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B081LPX2WH/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Wind+Me+Up%2C+One+More+Time&qid=1573974211&s=books&sr=1-1

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/wind-me-up-one-more-time

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wind-me-up-one-more-time-ks-trenten/1134959345

Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1488235515?fbclid=IwAR1_ox2T5jIHibPFBHUqTck0SNaP3pcZIgNM4DS3VAjU47mn3o5iu260bMA

Conversations with Christopher: Iama’s Hall of Mirrors

Christopher steps out of the mists, finds himself stepping through a Door, a Door in the shape of a frame. 

He looks down at the roses, apples, and leaf pattern twisted with the weeping faces of women writhing together in the gold, his booted foot touching marble floor. 

Mirrors line the hall, reflecting boy after boy dressed in a long-necked dark tunic, his coppery golden hair curling around his ears, falling down his forehead. 

No. The same mists which swallow and take Christopher away envelop each boy, changing him into someone else or something else. A younger boy with brighter hair, brighter eyes, dressed in a white tunic with a green vest. Or a blue vest. A woman very like the boys exploring the rooftop of a cottage with an impish grin. A dragon with rainbow tinted scales curled upon around the top of a black and white tower. A dark sphinx fanning her wings while perched on top of a spinning wheel. A dark-haired young man reaching out a hand with a tiny private smile playing upon his lips as the roses bloom around him. 

Iama: You’re a creature of many faces.

Iama the Terrible, mistress of this hall stands at the opposite end of Christopher, gold clinging to her fingers, binding them to the long black billowing sleeve of her gown. She moves, draped in glittering shadow toward her visitor, appearing in every reflected image. 

She reaches out to touch each of the boys, the man in the garden, the woman on the rooftop. She stands on the spikes of the tower, her hand descending to pet the dragon. Her sleeve spreads across the sky above the sphinx, one giant finger descending toward the wheel.

Iama: My hall of mirrors reflect the different aspects of a person. You, all of you could keep it occupied for a long time. 

The boys shrink away. The man takes a step back. The woman dodges Iama’s fingers. The dragon hisses. The sphinx stands and growls. 

All of them do this as Christopher does a half-pirouette, increasing the distance between himself and his host. 

Christopher: Such an occupation may be as costly as your touch, my lady. 

Iama stops in her tracks, halfway to Christopher. Her reflections halt as if well. 

Iama: All I touch turns to gold, becoming precious, yet I am but a character within a story within a story.

Christopher: As am I, but I slip out of solid forms such as gold and stone into shadow.

Iama: Do you think you can slip away from me, your and your reflections? Here in my hall of mirrors?

Christopher: I think you need a victim’s consent before you can touch them or keep them. 

Iama: I have no victims. Only companions. 

Christopher: If so, you would need my…our…consent.

Boys, man, woman, dragon and sphinx all nod in agreement at the aspect of Iama approaching them. 

Iama: (lowering her hand) Ah, well, what am but a creature of Nathalie and Grace’s fairytale? I must abide by their rules and yours. 

Christopher: Must you?

The man, the woman, and the sphinx’s smile turns a little wicked, promising fairytale mischief of their own. Boys and dragon cock their heads in interest at this stranger for all they quiver. 

Iama nods with a liquid grace. The lips of her reflections twitch in response to the smiles and the curiosity. 

Iama: Within reason. I am Iama the Terrible, after all. 

Christopher: You’re one of the first characters our scribbler created. Once upon an eleven-year old’s teddy bear notebook. 

The boys, the woman, and the dragon perk up at the last. The man raises a delicate black eyebrow. The sphinx presses her lips together, trying not to laugh at the source of the dark hand menacing her. 

Iama: Yes. Years before Wind Me Up, One More Time was published. I was the villain in the very first story the scribbler wrote. 

Christopher: You were male originally. Weren’t you?

Iama: Both Theodora Bear and I. She…or rather he…was a talking, walking teddy bear who came to Grace out of nowhere, guiding her to my starlit tower. I was a foul-tempered wizard inclined to kidnap princesses, forcing them to scrub my floor. 

Christopher: Why?

Iama: (smile twisting) This is something our scribbler never got around to explaining in that first story. 

One of the boys looks out of the mirror at Christopher, moving his lips. The Iama facing him looks as well. 

Christopher: (smiling at the boy in the mirror) Don’t worry, Danyel. I’ll ask. 

Iama: (glancing at the boy in the mirror before looking back at Christopher) Ask whatever you wish.

Christopher: Was it princesses? Or just one princess?

Iama makes another graceful half bow toward Danyel. Her reflection approaching him bows as well. As do all the Iamas. 

Iama: Just one. Nathalie. Grace and her teddy bear companion came to rescue her.

Christopher: This sounds like a story in itself. 

Iama: Not much of one. (She wrinkles her nose.) The scribbler was a less than precocious eleven-year-old. 

Christopher: I wonder if Gryluxx isn’t a bit like the original you. 

Boys and dragon nod emphatically. The woman and the sphinx roll their eyes. The man along with all of the Iamas glance down, lips twitching. 

Iama: This name is unknown to me. 

Christopher: He’s from my world. The world of Tales of the Navel, Tales of Omphalos. He wears black robes and too much jewelry. He used to be part of a raven boy called Paul who detests me. He usually works a boast about how great and powerful he is into any conversation. 

Iama: So this Gryluxx claims to be great and powerful rather than showing it. (She lets out a dark chuckle.) Yes, that does sound like the original me. I was, after all, defeated by a girl and a teddy bear. 

Christopher: As opposed to in Wind Me Up, One More Time?

Iama: My story along with myself is far more complex.

Christopher: This may be also because of the writing of our scribbler. Both she and it have changed over time. 

Iama: True. 

(To be continued next Monday.)

If you’d like to read more about Iama the Terrible and her hall of mirrors, check out Wind Me Up, One More Time available at…

Mischief Corner Books/Shenanigans Press: https://www.mischiefcornerbooks.com/store/p161/Wind_Me_Up%2C_One_More_Time.html#/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B081LPX2WH/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Wind+Me+Up%2C+One+More+Time&qid=1573974211&s=books&sr=1-1

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/wind-me-up-one-more-time

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wind-me-up-one-more-time-ks-trenten/1134959345

Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1488235515?fbclid=IwAR1_ox2T5jIHibPFBHUqTck0SNaP3pcZIgNM4DS3VAjU47mn3o5iu260bMA

#QueerBlogWed: Mel’s Master

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warm hand took hers. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was enough. It would have to be enough. 

#QueerBlogWed: A Moment of Crossover

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

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

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

Right. Only in dreams. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right. As if I’d ever believe that. 

Never mind a fool part of me wanted to. 

Secondary Characters Speak Out: Quartz, Jasper, and Garnet

It’s been a long time since the seven dwarves were together. It’s been even longer since his brothers have seen Quartz outside his crystal coffin. 

Jasper, the sixth dwarf and the second to the youngest, decides to have a little fun with this during the spooky season. 

He blackens his ginger whiskers and sprinkles them with silver. He waits until dusk behind the door of the cottage he shares with his brothers. 

A nose peeks out, followed by a face covered with scraggly ginger whiskers. Garnet steps outside, not really wanting to. 

Garnet: Um, Jasper? Our brothers should be coming back from the mines soon. Have you finished the gardening?

Jasper: (imitating Quartz’s manner) Right. As if you weren’t the one supposed to do the gardening. 

Garnet: (nearly jumping out of his skin) Quartz?! (He peers at Jasper, a sooty Jasper with salt-and-pepper whiskers.) It can’t be. You’re dead. Opal said you were dead. 

Jasper: (snorting in a very Quartz-like fashion) Since when is Opal right about anything? As if I’d do what he says!

Garnet: (taking a timid step forward) You saying you’re not dead?

Jasper: I’m saying it’s impossible to rest in peace when you’re always pulling your whiskers and ducking responsibility!

Garnet: (one guilty hand reaching up a hank of beard) I’m not…

Jasper: Right. Keep this up and the garden gnomes will come after you. Just see.

Garnet: (shaking his head) Thought garden gnomes were just a silly, round-faced human ornament collection. You said so. You said not to take Jasper so seriously.

Jasper: Uh huh. You learn things when you fall under the sleeping curse, terrible things. Like the truth of those gnomes. 

Garnet: What truth?

Jasper: Oh, they seen like a bunch of chubby cheeked idiots who don’t even move until they notice you. Unless they chose to show you their true faces. Once they do, they’ll never leave you alone. 

Garnet: That’s what Jasper told me. I saw their true faces, their claws and their teeth. You said it was just tall tales. 

Jasper: There’s truth to tall tales, lad. I’m guessing you’re still seeing those gnomes, their true faces out of the corner of your eye. I’m guessing you still hear them whispering your name. Coming closer and closer. 

Garnet doesn’t say anything. He just shivers. 

Jasper: I’ve seen them, too, lad, in my cursed sleep. Seen them coming closer to you. If they come close enough…(He shudders)

Garnet: What? They’ll eat me? They’ll take me away to some horrible world and make me their slave? What?!

Jasper: It’s too terrible to say out loud. We don’t want to catch their eye. Not any more than you have.

Garnet: What can I do?

Jasper: Just be good, very good. Good behavior and good manners are a charm against such monsters. Keep your head down. Never pull your beard again. 

Garnet: I won’t!

Jasper: Now go take care of the weeds in the garden. 

Garnet: (frowning) That was Jasper’s job. 

Jasper: The better you behave, the less those gnomes will notice you. Now take care of those weeds! Do a better job than Jasper ever could!

Garnet: Fine! 

He bolts in the direction of the garden. Jasper watches him go, smothering his own giggles. 

Jasper: Oh, little brother, how gullible you are. 

Quartz: Right. And how good you are at conning others into doing your chores. 

Jasper turns, sees a shimmering outline of the actual Quartz, glowering at him. 

Jasper screams in terror and runs for the door, slamming it behind him. 

Garnet comes running from the garden, stops short at the sight of Quartz. 

Garnet: Quartz?

Quartz: For someone who claims to see all sorts of things your brothers can’t, you miss what’s right under your nose. And I’m not dead, thank you very much!

Garnet: Opal says you are. Before you go saying you don’t do what he says, or since when is he right about anything, I’ve seen you lying in that crystal coffin myself. Not breathing. 

Quartz: Aye, curses are complicated. I’m suffering from whatever was absorbed by that coffin. 

Garnet: You mean our princess’s curse? You’ve got it now?

Quartz: (sighing) Something like that. I’m not dead, though. Don’t ever believe it, no matter what that fool Opal says. Now get inside with your brother. 

Garnet: Why? I’m not afraid of you, even if you are a ghost. 

Quartz: Turns out what you’ve been seeing isn’t all kobold crap. There may be more to this tale of garden gnomes stalking than I realized. 

Garnet: Really?

Quartz: Just get inside, little brother, and wait for the rest of us to come home. 

Garnet swallows and shuts the door behind him. On the other side Quartz hears a faint whisper. 

Garnet: Happy Halloween, Quartz.

Quartz: (swallowing a bit in turn) Happy Halloween to you, too, little brothers. (He can hear Jasper breathing hard on the other side.) Stay safe. (adds a little mischievously) Don’t let the garden gnomes bite. And don’t pull your whiskers! 

A couple of squeaks are his response to this.

Happy Halloween! 😉

Wednesday Words: Tales of the Navel

On March 9, 2022, P.T. Wyant posted a Wednesday Words prompt at ptwyant.com. It involved a delivery package, water, and nosy neighbors.

This made Madam Journey to stop by with her cart to deliver a package to the Navel…and collide with Juno.

There’s something to be said for moving. You keep moving. You don’t have to stay and deal with noisy neighbors. 

Don’t envy ‘Brie, having to live with a neighbor like Juno. Got a reflected storm in those eyes of hers, a sharp beak in that chirrupy voice, pecking and pecking. Ready to draw blood, scratch whatever you’re hiding out of you. 

She’s still a customer. Not that I work at the Navel. Not exactly, but I work with ‘Brie. I bring her deliveries. I’m just as glad that Juno doesn’t notice me when I do. 

“Oh, why if it isn’t the Wandering Madam!” She tittered behind a thick hand covered with rings. Meant to dazzle the eye, those gems sparkling from each finger. Made it hard to look at any one of them. “Just what are you bringing our darling ‘Brie in that quaint cart of yours?”

“Madam Journey,” I said with a short nod. Not that it was my true name. Wasn’t about to give to just anybody. Especially not greedy goddesses like Juno. Even if she was now just a nosy neighbor. 

Nosy neighbors could be trouble. Nosy neighbors in Omphalos were too often spies. 

“Just a package.” I held the wrapped parcel, not willing to give it to Juno. She wasn’t the right one for it. “The usual.”

“Is that so?” Juno tittered again, eyes daring from myself to the cart. “Nothing is ever usual at the Navel, is it, dear? ‘Brie herself claims it’s the center of all things bizarre, but what’s bizarre can become commonplace on a regular basis, don’t you think?

“Depends on the bizarre.” Not much of an answer. Juno didn’t need one. “Bizarre may be the people as much as the packages here.”

“Too true.” 

Speak of the bizarre. Juno’s daughter stood in the shop. How quiet she must have been, lurking behind one of the shelves. Almost as good as that beautiful monster ‘Brie kept around the Navel, passing off him as her son. 

Hebe stared at the package with a pinched, hungry face. She had the same watery gray eyes as her mum.

“That’s for me.” There was no question in her voice. She reached out for it with trembling hands. 

Too bad she was right. 

I unwrapped the parcel, revealing a cup which was almost a bowl. A youth appeared in onyx and black along the side. He himself offered a basin to someone unseen. 

“Every time you passed the cup to my father, I imagined you were passing it to me,” she muttered, almost too low for me to hear. Not that she was talking to me. “You took everything, yet I couldn’t bring myself to hate you. No matter how much you haunt me.” 

With slow reverence, she leaned forward to kiss the figure upon the side. 

“Hebe!” Her mother made a strangled sound in her throat, hand clutching at her chest. “Why? Why are you here? Must you claim another cup?”

“Yes.” Hebe held the cup with especial tenderness in her hands. “Don’t worry. It won’t last. They never do.”

She turned with her prize and strode out of the Navel.

“It does her no good!” Juno turned upon me with sudden fury. “Why must you continue giving her these trinkets that remind her of what she’s lost? Why feed her madness?”

I shook my head real slow, left and right. “I don’t know myself. Why don’t you ask her? I’m just making a delivery.”

Most of the time, it’s a good thing. Something someone needs. Something they’ve lost. Treasure pretending to be trash.

Sometimes it’s trash pretending to be treasure. Just trying telling that to someone who looks with eyes filled with angry worship. 

They’ve got to figure it out for themselves. When to stop collecting trash. 

You’d never know it, looking at me, a baggy woman pushing a cart that seems to be full of trash. The truth is, I gave up collecting trash a long time ago. 

Not that anyone believes it. Too many folks put too much stock in appearances.

You got to look deeper. Even if you do, it may not stop you from collecting trash. Not if you don’t understand the real reason why. 

Only Hebe could figure it out. 

Her mother glowered at me, maybe thinking of all the nasty things she might have done to me if she was still a goddess, sitting on high in the heavens. 

Good thing she wasn’t. Not that I couldn’t have handled her, but I don’t go looking for trouble. Just things people have lost or are looking for. 

I nodded at Juno and made my way to the exit. 

#RainbowSnippets: Stealing Myself From Shadows

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

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

To sample different writers’s snippets, go to…

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

For my own, here’s another taste of the shape changing serpent I’m wrestling with, err, Work In Progress, Stealing Myself From Shadows…

 I shivered at the hand. I cringed away from those slender fingers. 

    “It’s all right.” The young man’s voice was soft, husky with reassurance. It sent a tingle down my back, reminding me that I had a back, a body. “This is your rebirth, Christopher.”

#RainbowSnippets: Stealing Myself From Shadows

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

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

To sample various LGBTQIA+ stories, go to…

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

Here it is. My baby. Christopher’s story. Yes, the same Christopher from Conversations with Christopher. The novel I’ve spent years working on, spent years putting off. This year I’ve stepped away from the push to publish, trying to finish it, adding revised version of the prologues I’ve posted here before.

Here is Stealing Myself From Shadows

  Awareness came to me with the light shining in the darkness. That light beckoned with human fingers. 

    Those fingers drew my attention, drew me closer. They were attached to an arm. The arm was attached to a young man. He radiated light, illuminating everything around him. The only shadows touching him were the locks of hair curling around the nape of his neck. 

Like what you’ve read? Please let me know!