Life is contantly changing. I use my hands to try to change the world around me. First it was to create art, to feel for the form within wood, marble or clay. Second to wrestle with the physical manifestation of the various malevolent forces around me, particularly those which threatened my Lady Amberwyne. Sure, we were very young, she and I, but she was dedicated to changing things for the better while I was dedicated to protecting her. Only she was taken away by the mysterious Lady Fidessa for special education. I told myself that this was a good thing, something which would improve Amberwyne’s prospects in the world, only it didn’t. Fidessa turned out to be an evil enchantress, not only out to enslave Amberwyne but the entire world. Now Amber and I travel from place to place, trying to undo the mischief Fidessa leaves behind, I suspect deliberately as a taunt to her former protege. We encounter allies and enemies along the way, often unsure which is which is which. Our world is in constant flux, only our world may not even be real. Amberwyne uncovered a secret truth, that The Players Are the Thing; she, Rhiannon (one of our uncertain allies) and myself are all just characters in an ongoing game in another world, belonging the various players. These players are in the thrall of a sorceress called the Game Master, one whose soul is slowly souring while she makes her players unhappy. It’s up to us, the characters to save our players, to remind them of the reason they started this game in the first place, to remind them of their goal. As in all things, it may be down to the luck of the dice as much as anything we can do. I’m not sure if I believe Amber about these players’ existence. I’m not sure if I want to believe in it. Only it would explain the strange sensations I sometimes get, the feeling like an outside force was moving through me. I assumes it was creative inspiration, but perhaps it is my player. Perhaps I should try to contact her, reach out and touch her when I use my hands. I’m afraid, though, afraid of this change touching my very being, not only for me but for Amberwyne. Some matters are forbidden for a reason, some things are not meant to be touched. Only Amber has already reached out to touch her player. Whatever fate awaits her for doing this, I can’t let her face it alone. By the spirits, that fate can’t be any worse than whatever Fidessa is planning for us and the world. Fidessa may well be a puppet of this Game Master, controlling her as she controlls the players. I still think we should stop Fidessa. Whatever changes are to come will follow. If contacting this player of mine will help me stop Fidessa, help me to protect Amberwyne, I’m willing to do it. I simply fear the consequences of such contact might be something else entirely.
It’s hard to remember Hebe. My current self doesn’t want to remember her and Hebe herself wanted to change so badly. Trapped by a sense of futility, losing her function at her father’s side to a pretty boy Jupitre plucked in his claws, subject to her mother’s protective disappointment, her purpose dwindled to finding cups at the Navel. She’d take them home, smash them, and return to the Navel for another one. What a sad, pathetic existence. Was it truly once mine? Not anymore. I changed in the Shadow Forest. I discarded Hebe. I got my wish. I can’t help wondering, though, who found her? Who absorbed her memories, the pieces of self she discarded in Stealing Myself From Shadows? Would I recognize these pieces if confronted with them in a different form, a different person? Or would they hide themselves within dolls, crystals or cups on the Navel’s shelves? Are they waiting for the right person to walk into the shop, to pick them up and claim them? I hope that person isn’t me. Why would anyone else want them? I certainly didn’t. The only person who wants Hebe back is her mother. She’s found herself a surrogate daughter, as big a disappointment as Hebe was. The disappointing daughter, perhaps she’s an essential part of Juno’s existence. Perhaps she’s happy with her disappointing daughter. Hebe never made her mother any happier than she did her father. Together again, perhaps Juno and Jupitre are happy. With her husband in her grasp, Juno may no longer need Hebe to need her, even if their marriage is only a shadow of what it once was. The sight of Jupitre in Omphalos makes me so angry. Is this the father I tried so hard to impress, the father whose rejection made me spiral into despair? A broken, feeble, lecherous man, dreaming of the glory of the god he once was? He truly hid behind the thunderbolt. I thought I’d moved past both of my parents, but part of me can’t forgive or forget them. Maybe this means there’s still a part of Hebe within me, even after I thought I’d discarded her completely. Can you completely discard yourself in the Shadow Forest? Or does your essential core remain, bured beneath the manifestation of your wishes? I’m not sure. I tried not to think about it too much. Too much thought leads to doubt. Doubt seems to be catching up with me, no matter how many Doors I escape through. Doubt and the ghost of my former self. I guess there’s no escaping Hebe, no matter how far I try to run.
I used to seek out change, breaks from the monotany of daily existence. I didn’t feel I had much to lose. I was, after all a vessel for one of the Heavenly Directions, but I never had much direction. Not until Mirielle convinced me to walk away from the Temple of Heavenly Directions. In time, I convinced Damian Ashelocke to do something similar, to walk away from the Gardens of Arachne at my side. Only Duessa Ashelocke let us go. I wonder Rafaelle let me go? I never thought she’d do such a thing, but perhaps Urielle convinced her. Silent, lovely Urielle, never speaking, but never judging either as Rafaelle and Michael often did. Perhaps the scribbler will tell those tales in My Tool, My Treasure? Or she could be saving them for Web of Inspiration. They’re all part of a collection of tales; Tales of the Navel: The Shadow Forest. Once I opened the Navel, my odd little shop in Omphalos, I was content to be the keeper of other people’s tales, handing back the pieces of their lives in form of various innocuous items; dolls, statuettes, candles, cups. Whatever the customer wandered into the Navel looking for, I helped them to find. This was what I was doing in Waiting for Rebirth, Unwilling to Be Yours, Be My Valentine…Snack, and Stealing Myself From Shadows. Unfortunately this task wasn’t enough for Damian. His longing for something more opened a Door to the Shadow Forest right in the middle of the Navel. Eventually Christopher, the son Damian brought me and Peter, the employee who came to fill the void left by Damian followed him through another Door.
I have no desire to go to the Shadow Forest, but the Forest keeps drawing those I care for into its mists. Soon, I fear, the Forest will come knocking at the Navel’s door. I’ve got to be prepared when it does. The problem is, it’s very hard to be prepared for whatever the Shadow Forest spits out at me. Perhaps it would be better to dodge and catch it.
I haven’t lost any of the gifts I possessed as a Heavenly Direction, gifts that set me apart from most people. I’ve tried not to flaunt them, to live quietly in Omphalos, but quiet is always disturbing. A noise, a shout, a scream, or a laugh disturbs it. How I handle the disturbance may be a lot more important than anyone would guess, the moment I react. For actions have consequences, sending ripples across reality and unreality. My own ripples are still causing waves, waves I may yet have to ride, I and anyone who’s connected to me. Here’s hoping we can all maintain our equilibrium, when the waves come crashing down.
Change? You want me, Fiona Hartford, descendant of Elizabeth Hartford to change? I’m the caretaker of Hartford Hall. No, not the owner. I’d never consider myself the owner of Hartford Hall. The real owner may be dead or undead, but she never lets forget I’d never be able to step into her shoes. I’m just a minor character in A Portrait Is Worth a Thousands Words (not sure if that’s a Work in Progress or an unpublished work. Guess it depends on which version you’re thinking about.) Nothing changes around here. Tradition rules and the dead won’t shut up about how disappointing I am as an heir. Never mind the dead made far more spectacular mistakes than I ever have. So what if my hair is a mess and a I wear a white lab coat, even though I’m neither a doctor or a scientist? Lab coats are comfortable. Spill chocolate fudge down them and everyone thinks it’s blood. Not to mention you can just bleach a lab coat. I’m bound to spill something with her Bloody Ladyship always yammering in my ear, materializing from the walls, staring at me through painted eyes from her portrait. Whenever I’m about to relax, she has a way of interrupting. So what if the other heir to the Hartford line is actually a man? Westerleigh is quite the cute cross-dresser. Looks a damn sight better in a lace blouse and velver skirt than I do. The dead shouldn’t be so bloody fussy about everything. The dead should shut up from time to time. It would be great if Elizabeth Hartford shut up permanently. One change I’d really like to make is laying Elizabeth Hartford to rest forever. This is why I’m helping her in her bloody scheme to catch her body. I’m finishing that unfinished business of hers in the hopes it finishes Elizabeth. Maybe I’ll finally get some peace and quiet once I do. Is that too much to ask? For me, probably.
I cannot believe that fool of scribbler completely forgot about me and my story, A Portrait Is Worth a Thousand! How could she forget Elizabeth Hartford? I am larger than life, larger than most characters? How could she leave me, my soul trapped in a portrait while my body wanders around as a blood-sucking corpse?
Never mind. I changed my fate once. I can certainly change it again, even if I have to rely upon my bumbling descendants to carry out my will in the world of the living to do so. My fear is the change may not have to do with myself at all. It may have been Judith Cross’s obsession with me, her artistic power which transferred my soul into her painting. I may not even truly be Elizabeth Hartford, but simply her perception of me, given consciousness. The real Elizabeth could be the blood-sucking corpse. How’s that for irony? As jokes go, I don’t find it particularly amusing. I have no intention of tolerating or accepting that notion, even if it continues to worry at my thoughts. Never mind. I have little Westerleigh to carry out my will, along with the idiot Fiona. My will will be done, no matter what I may have become. I am the only Elizabeth Hartford who truly matters now. Any other version of me can go to the devil, where she belongs!
Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!
Every Saturday or Sunday, those participating post and share six sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction on their blogs. It can be their own. It can be someone else’s. It just needs to be LGBTQIA+.
To read a wide variety of samples from LGBTQIA+ stories, go to…
I’m picking up with Nathalie and Grace where I left off last Saturday in Wind Me Up, One More Time…it’s a little longer six sentences for coherency’s sake, forgive me! (bows)
They’d been among the first books she’d read or that she remembered reading. Mama herself was becoming more distant and fuzzy as Grace got a little taller. She wasn’t about to forget anything about Mama’s stories.
“Exactly!” Nathalie beamed at her sister. “Mama Morisot and Auntie Cassat got the idea for Grace and Theodora: Magic and Mishaps from Verity’s bears. Women still continue to sew them by hand in this factory.”
Like what you’ve read? Want to read more? Here are buy links…
Mischief Corner Books/Shenanigans Press: https://www.mischiefcornerbooks.com/wind-me-up-one-more-time.html#/
I’ve been with our scribbler for a very long time. I came to her in images generated by Depeche Mode and Alphaville’s music when she was only a teenager. For a while, I was the younger brother of someone else’s character in a fanfic that was never written, but I started to take on a life of my own. My identity began with my last name, Ashelocke. I emerged from the scribbler’s imagination into writing in the early part of the 21st century, appearing in the original draft of Stealing Myself From Shadows. Only I wasn’t truly developed. Ashamed, my scribbler tossed my story away. She started to write a new story with characters who’d been well received before, banishing Christopher, Duessa, and myself, who’d been with her for so longer, yet disappointed her so bitterly to the darkness. That darkness wasn’t the answer. Our scribbler needed to to get to know us, our voices, to find out how to express them on the page. We kept whispering to her imagination, refusing to let her forget us. Bit by bit, she started writing story fragments involving us, fragments which became part of a new Stealing Myself From Shadows. By the time she published her first novella, Fairest, by her first NaNoWriMo, she was ready. She wrote a new draft of Stealing Myself From Shadows where we were restored to our rightful places as characters. Our scribbler began the difficult process of integrating our story, along with the one she’d been wroking on previously, now titled The Hand and the Eye of the Tower into the same universe. I got a major part in an ongoing prelude our scribbler was posting here at the Cauldron, known as Waiting for Rebirth. My disappearance after finding and forming a bond with Christopher became the plot of that story. Getting me back was Christopher’s goal in Stealing Myself From Shadows and we finally had a story showing why. There’s more to that story which spills out in many a Tale of the Navel as well as multiple novels (which continue to await revision and completion). One of those is a rough draft of My Tool, My Treasure, the fourth novel in Tales of the Navel: The Shadow Forest. All the while, I continue to develop and change. Even I don’t know what I’ll become. One thing remains constant. I haven’t forgotten or stopped caring about Christopher. I’m not about to let the exquisite creature who consumed me or his family hurt Christopher, no matter how threatened Leiwell feels. He and his brothers are just as great a threat to Christopher and myself, whether they’re willing to admit or not. My ‘disappearance’ is proof of this.