Secondary Characters Speak Out: Map

A hooded figure in black robes stumbles into a clearing in the woods. Sunshine falls upon the crystal coffin in the center of the clearing. 

The figure throws back her hood, revealing a weary, wrinkled brown face like the bark of an ancient tree. Wild, graying black hair escapes in strands from the tight knot at the back of her neck.

She moves toward the crystal coffin. A stocky, thick figure can be seen through the opaque barrier of rock, a figure with a graying black beard, dressed in a burgundy waistcoat, a jacket, and trousers, still wearing his boots even though he’s laying down with his thick hands folded on his breast. 

She stops right in front of the coffin, close enough to touch it, but she doesn’t. She gazes right down at the sleeping dwarf’s red cheeks, his whiskered face. 

His eyes open. They are dark, yet flecked with hints of color like many a stone hiddn in the earth. 

Quartz: (lips not moving, but his voice can be heard) You’re not my princess. Not my kobold, neither. Map, wasn’t it?

Map: (for it is she) Hmmph. Looks like I get to be your blog guest again. Lucky me.

Quartz: Hmph yourself. As if you were a secondary character. 

Map: I might say the same about you. Lying in a coffin as if you were dead.

Quartz: Not my idea. Blame the scribbler.

Map: Often. 

Me: (while typing these words on the screen) Hey! (glares at Map’s words)

Map: (gazing from the coffin out, as if she was on TV and I was watching her) Why not call her out on it? Secondary characters don’t stay dead in her worlds. 

Quartz: Right. Got something against secondary characters? Dead ones in particular?

Map: I just said. They keep coming back to life.

Quartz: Good for them. Maybe I should have them as guests. Think I might have had one already, but we should talk more. Share ideas for haunting the main characters. 

Map: I’m not a main character. Why do you want to haunt them anyway?

Quartz: Don’t you? Especially the ones you’d really like to talk to, but your story arc isn’t giving you a chance to?

Map: Well…(Map squrms a bit.)…I haven’t given up hope I won’t have to haunt them. That they’ll want to talk to me, too. 

Quartz: Right. Which is why you’re skulking around my coffin, wearing that face. 

Map: What’s wrong with this face? (She touches her own wrinkles as if only becoming aware of them.)

Quartz: Nothing. Sure it’s perfectly fine as human faces go, but it’s not your true one. 

Map: How in Seraphix’s madness would you know that?

Quartz: See things since sleeping under this curse. Maybe it’s the crystal. Maybe your disguise is slipping. 

Map: (drawing herself up) You think I’m disguising myself?

Quartz: Aren’t you?

Map backs up a step. She draws her hood over her head, crouches down in a huddled dark shape. The shape grows, expanding. 

The rough weave of her cloth hood transforms into a velvety membrane. A wing, wings like those of a bat or a raptor. She spreads her wings, revealing a lean dark torso, the body and claws of a lion. The wrinkles have vanished from her face, leaving it a smooth ebon like the surface of an opal. Neat plaits of braided hair fall to her shoulders from a silver circlet around her forehead, as silver as the light shining from eyes as dark and gleaming as a cosmos of stars. 

The sphinx leaps forward to pounce upon the coffin. She peers at the dwarf’s face. 

Map: (for it is still Map’s voice even if it’s stronger and clearer than before) Tell me, Quartz. Is this my true face? Or just the one you hoped I’d show you?

Quartz: Never guessed you’d look like this, but it’s less of a mask than your other face.

Map: Less of a mask, not my true face. Is that what you’re saying?

Quartz: Maybe asking you to show your true face is too much. Truth may get muddled. Lost in memory. Like a picture you keep on a shelf. You try to dust it, keep it clean, so you can see it, but the dust keeps returning. Maybe truth is like that. You try to keep it clear in your head, but memory and feeling keep getting it dusty. 

Map: You compare memory and feeling to dust? Are these things you feel should be cleared away?

Quartz: Never, but they can get the truth dusty. Just like they make it hard to see your true face.

Map: Not a bad answer, Quartz. A good thing because I was getting hungry. 

Quartz: So the legends are true. Your kind eats those who won’t answer their riddles. Or their questions. 

Map: I cannot speak for my kind, Quartz. I’ve met women who had the potential to become like me, but most of them died before they found their wings or claws. 

Quartz: Women, not sphinx?

Map: I was a woman once. Education, knowledge, and a specific sort of angry hunger shaped me, giving me centuries beyond most women’s lives. I’d hoped to encourage others to become like me, but they weren’t stronger than their anger. Or mine. 

Quartz: Right. These wouldn’t be those secondary characters haunting you?

Map: (wingtips trembling) I thought I’d killed them when they failed me, turning on me. I thought I’d fed them to another monster. Only he brought them back to life in human form. If they were ever truly dead in the first place. 

Quartz: So you never met another sphinx like yourself?

Map: Like myself, no, but I have met another sphinx. She was very different. I thought I’d find her here, sleeping in your coffin in human form. 

Quartz: Huh. Another woman has slept in this coffin, though she wasn’t a sphinx.

Map: And now you’re there. Sleeping yet not sleeping. 

Quartz: Blame the scribbler. She has yet to get back to me. 

Map: Has she, now?

Quartz: Don’t gloat over all the time you’ve gotten with her, woman. 

Map: I’m not gloating. She hasn’t spent that much time with me. Secondary character, remember?

Quartz: Right. If you’re a secondary character, I’m a Person of Interest.

Nimmie Not: (voice coming out of nowhere) You are!

Map: (glancing around at the sound) I see. I wonder now if you’re truly cursed rather than simply the subject of…attention. 

Quartz: Oh, I’m cursed. Absorbed it, you see, from this poor crystal. It needed cleansing after healing the girl who slept within it. 

Map: (peering at the stone) You’ve trapped yourself, trying to cleanse it. 

Quartz: Stop trying to riddle spoilers out of me. As you can see, your sister sphinx isn’t here. 

Map: She wasn’t my sister. She was my companion, the love of my life. She might have become my wife if I hadn’t let her go. 

Quartz: You didn’t curse her, did you? That’s why I put my girl in this coffin to begin with. To have the crystal draw the curse from her. 

Map: No, I didn’t curse her, even though I was angry and hurt. She may have cursed herself. 

Quartz: Sounds like you’re not sure.

Map: She carried her past like a burden, giving into destructive impulses until she shed her former self.

Quartz: Did that help?

Map: It did and it didn’t. She became a new person, but she discovered a new compulsion. 

Quartz: Right. Not sure how much she changed. 

Map: She left me before we could find out. 

Quartz: Why’d she leave?

Map: To follow her compusion. To open Doors. To discover new worlds, her own power, but I felt compelled to stay as much as she did to go. To take care of what she left behind.

Quartz: What did she leave behind?

Map: Children. At least I thought they were hers. Two of them looked very much like her. 

Quartz: Right. Whose were they?

Map: Does it matter? (She extendd her claws.) They’re mine now. Mine and Ashleigh’s.

Quartz: Ashleigh. If that’s the other sphinx, I think I’ve met her. Curious name for a sphinx. 

Map: Enough. Answering your questions, correcting your flawed statements is making me hungry. Only being answered satisfies me. 

Quartz: Are you often satisfied? 

Map: No. 

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Secondary Characters Speak Out: Cheesecurd

Someone is scratching at the crystal of Quartz’s coffin. Scritching and scratching with tiny paws. 

Quartz opens his eyes, sees through a layer of rock turned translucent. It reveals a mouse’s muzzle, peering at him.

Our dwarf tries to yell, but cannot move his lips. Sometimes it’s like that in this coffin. He decides to think as hard as he can at his unwelcome visitor. 

Quartz: Get off!

The mouse on the coffins flicks his tail, pausing. 

Cheesecurd: (for it is he, Mousetrick’s rival) Where’s the cheese? I thought there would be cheese in this thing. (Again he scratches at the coffin, bumping his nose against it.) Mousetrick told me there would be cheese here. 

Quartz: Stop scratching, you…shards, I still can’t move my lips. This may be my guest for Secondary Characters Speak Out. Not sure why I’m trapped in here. 

Cheesecurd: This is boring. 

Quartz: See here, you…mouse. This coffin may be cursed, but it’s still crystal. Show some respect.

Cheesecurd: There’s no cheese I can get to. Just an ugly giant I don’t want to get to.

Quartz: Who are you calling ugly, snoutface? Though I suppose you’ve got a point about the giant. Seeing how small you are. 

Cheesecurd: Why do I bother? I’ve got better things to do with the last bit of year than scratch around here. 

Quartz: As if I didn’t. You try being abandoned by the scribbler and everyone else, left in a cursed crystal coffin.

Cheesecurd: There’s gingerbread to steal and nibble. Cheese to find. Paper to shred and hide. Ugh, I’m exhausted just thinking of it all. Maybe I’ll curl up and take a nap.

Quartz: Not on this coffin, you don’t. It’s not like you’re the only one with things you’d rather be doing. Or things you need to be doing. I doubt those brothers of mine are taking care of themselves. Garnet is probably pulling his whiskers right now. 

Somewhere far away in the Forest of Tears, Garnet sneezes, drops a guilty hand from his hanks of beard. 

Cheesecurd: It’s tiring, always having to share with the others. Everyone sleeping in my bed. Mousetrick is the worst of the lot. 

Quartz: Aye, he’s bad, that one. Always popping out of the cuckoo clock and the yellow smoke, huh? Who are we talking about?

Cheesecurd: Huh? Did the giant inside this crystal speak? I thought he was sleeping. 

Quartz: Never mind me. I’m just lying here. Cursed. Waiting for my princess or my kobold to come. Not. 

Cheesecurd: Guess it’s nothing. Guess it’s OK to curl up and take a nap there. There’s no tissue. It’s exposed, but it’s private. Don’t see any hawks or stoats. 

Quartz: Taking chances like that will make you hawk food. Or stoat food. 

Cheescurd ignores him, curls up on top of the crystal, and shuts his eyes. 

Quartz: Not that I’ve seen them in the Forest of Tears. They might still come. If they scare you. 

Cheesecurd begins to snore. 

Quartz: Right. Don’t bother acknowledging me. I’m only your host. Don’t even wish me a happy new year. Not that you’re listening. Some secondary characters aren’t even worth speaking to. 

Cheesecurd, oblivious, continues snoring. 

To read more of Cheesecurd’s laziness or selective listening, read  (which he insists is his story, not Mousetrick’s at)…

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Secondary Characters Speak Out: Quartz and Gryluxx

Quartz sits in a clearing in the Forest of Tears where red flowers like fat teardrops hang low on many of trees. He can see many of them even if he’s perched on a stump. He can also see the crystal coffin not far away. It’s occupied but he refuses to look too closely at it.

Quartz: Not sure if it’s me or my Fairest in there. Not sure when I am or how I woke up. It was a cursed sleep after all. Doesn’t seem like it would be that easy to wake from. 

Gryluxx: Because it’s my will that you look me in the eye when you speak to me, dwarf. Not just lie there on your back. 

A flock of crows swoop down to snatch at Quartz’s dark green cap. 

Quartz: Oi! (He bats away at the birds, getting pecked in process.) Get away from me!

The crows swirl around in a whirring vortex of feathers only to disaappear into a feathered cloak. The cloak settles upon the shoulders of a robed man with a goatee, a sneer, and beady eyes. A single silver medallion rests against his breast. 

Gryluxx: How rude. (He strokes his medallion, rings flashing on every finger.) I happen to be your guest for this month’s blog. Even if I marvel at the conceit which allows you to dismiss me, me! as a secondary character. 

Quartz: Right. (He rocks forward on the stump to peer at his “guest”.) Just whom am I supposed to be impressed by? Meaning you. (He snorts a bit at his own words.)

Gryluxx: (sniffing) Mind your tone, dwarf, for I am Gryluxx. Master of mysteries. Snatcher of secrets. I am the eyes and ears of the Lord of Omphalos and all the lands that surround it. I am what was wasted in the cupbearer of the former Lord of the Heavens, Chosen Follower of Seraphix. I am…(He stops, stares hard at Quartz)…that is very shoddy work. 

Quartz: (starting to doze off during Gryluxx’s litany, startled awake by the comment) Eh? What of it?

Gryluxx: Your cap. (The robed man fixes his beady eyes upon the cap in question) The seams are coming undone. I can make you another one, far sturdier for a very reasonable price. 

Quartz: Erm, I don’t know. (He touches the cap on his head.) This belonged to my mum. It’s been with me under earth and rock, wood and air. 

Gryluxx: It looks it. (He lets out another sniff.) Just how often do you change your clothes? You smell terrible. 

Quartz: Now see here! (He leaps down from the stool to glare up at Gryluxx who isn’t that tall.) I’ve lying there in a cursed sleep for shards knows how long. You try doing that and see how you smell after!

Gryluxx: (wrinkling his nose) I think not. No mere curse is great enough to catch me. Plus I can stitch a cap that’ll make you the envy and terror of goblins everywhere. 

Quartz: Look, I’ve got no quarrel with goblins. Don’t believe all the stereotypes about dwarves. Especially the ones that make us all handsome, sweeping halflings off their feet and into danger. I keep to myself and don’t go looking for trouble. 

Gryluxx: You’re only living a half life if that’s true. Trouble is where life’s most delicious slices lie. I’m guessing the most interesting things about you are what you try to hide. 

Quartz: What of it? That’s my concern. Not yours. 

Gryluxx: Everyone’s trouble is my concern. Remember I’m the master of mysteries and the stealer of secrets. 

Quartz: And you also sew caps. 

Gryluxx: You would look far less withered and grumpy in red. A red cap would give you a little more life. 

Quartz: Who are you calling withered and grumpy? The last thing I want is a red cap. It would cause all sorts of misunderstandings, yes it would. (He pauses.) Why am I talking like Nimmie Not?!

Nimmie Not: (not appearing but Quartz can hear him in his ear) I’m under your skin. Soon you’ll be dressing like me in yellow stockings. 

Quartz: (shuddering) Gah!

Gryluxx: (taking a step closer, nose twitching) What was that?

Quartz: Nothing! (takes a step back) Look, I’ve got no wish to change my cap. 

Gryluxx: Change will come whether you wish it to or not. Change flies on wings of omen to envelop you whether you welcome it or fight. Better to be prepared and attired for it. Better to let me attire you for it. 

Quartz: Gah, you’re as pushy as Nimmie Not! What are you, a wandering tailor peddling your wares as well as a mage?

Gryluxx: (drawing himself up stiffly) I never said I was anything as crude as a mage. I leave such vulgar ripples of power to Ashleigh, her wife, and her sons. 

Quartz: Should I know these people? (He pauses, frowns.) Wait, yes, I should…Map. Ashleigh’s wife would happen to be short as well as short-tempered? Lives in a cottage, doesn’t like visitors, has three sons?

Gryluxx: That would be Ashleigh’s wife. Her sons are far more beautiful than she is, although Ashleigh has improved greatly since when I once knew her. By a different name. 

Quartz: What name would that be?

Gryluxx: Tut, tut! Are you saying you don’t know, dwarf? You’ve met her. You’ve had her as a guest. She’s spoken to you about me as well. 

Quartz: What are you talking about?

Gryluxx: If you don’t know, I’m not telling you. (He lets out a wet-sounding chuckle.) Oh, the things I know that you don’t, even about your own blog. 

Quartz: And what would that be? 

Gryluxx: I’m sure Christopher has slunk in here, pretending to be a secondary character, the sneaky little shadow. Hasn’t he?

Quartz: Nothing sneaky about it. Christopher just shows up. 

Gryluxx: He’s spoken of Ashleigh’s sons, hasn’t he? The twins. Pretty boys, look very like her in her latest incarnation. Golden-haired, huge violet-blue eyes, button noses. Dressed impeccably thanks to my efforts and my lord’s degree. 

Quartz: So you’re saying you dress Danyel and Tayel. 

Gryluxx: Ah, so you do know them!

Quartz: Not sure if I’ve met them in a cross-over blog. So many dreams, so many blogs. (He rubs his head.) I blame the scribbler for being muddled. I’m sure she’s the one that’s muddled. 

Gryluxx: I would think you’d remember them if you met them. They are pretty boys, if insolent, willful, and utterly ignorant of their place. 

Quartz: Right and where would that be?

Gryluxx: Under my…guidance. 

Quartz: Uh huh. Guidance. Right. 

Gryluxx: (scowls) Right? Christopher would have done so much better if he’d accepted my guidance. 

Quartz: You offered to guide him?

Gryluxx: Well, no. (He scowls.) There were complications. A boy. A man, really, we were both close to. I didn’t trust Christopher. He is a shadow after all. 

Quartz: Right. And you’re the stealer of secrets. Among other things. 

Gryluxx: (drawing himself up) Are you questioning me? My title or my truth?

Quartz: It’s what I do here. Secondary characters come to me, wanting to be questioned. Doubt they’d show up otherwise. 

Gryluxx: You dare to call me a secondary character? Again? 

Quartz: Look at it this way. Map, her wife, even Christopher all considered themselves to be secondary characters. They’ve all ended up here. 

Gryluxx: And what secrets did they whisper to you?

Quartz: You want to know? Ask them. Or go find the blogs and read them. 

Gryluxx: Just what does Christopher want with the twins? What is he hiding?

Quartz: Not sure if he’s hiding anything. He just wants to protect them, yet he’s worried if he can’t if he gets too close to them. 

Gryluxx: Oh ho! He does, does he? (He rubs his hands together.) How delicious! Does he speak of that often?

Quartz: (backing up another step) Why do you ask?

Gryluxx: Isn’t it obvious, fool? The twins are of interest to my masters. Danyel and Tayel are mysteries. Therefore they’re of interest to me. I would crack them open, have them serve me. 

Quartz: Right. Serve you as what? A tailor’s assistants?

Gryluxx: (flinching before drawing himself up huffily) They’ve got to start somewhere. 

Quartz: If they’ve got to start.

Gryluxx: Just what are you saying, dwarf?

Quartz: Not sure if they’ve got start anywhere or anything. Not if it leads to serving you. Or being cracked open. 

Gryluxx: (baring his teeth) We’ll see about that, dwarf.

He spreads his cloak with a melodramatic flourish and lets out an equally melodramatic cackle. The cackle becomes the cawing of crows as Gryluxx transforms into a flock of birds. They take fight, cawing all the way in derision. 

Quartz: (watching them leave with just as much derision) Show-off. 

#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! 😉

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. 

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…

 http://www.amazon.com/author/kstrenten

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.