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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#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…

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For my own, Christopher enters the Navel, once again noticing how different this place is than the Shadow Forest in Stealing Myself From Shadows

 

I crossed the threshold, spotting the wind chimes dangling on the other side of the door. A memory of similar hollow cylinders hanging like flowers tinkled in time for a moment. 

    I blinked, enjoying the sound, allowing my eyes to adjust to the darkness. For a moment I thought the shadows of the store would overwhelm me, but I was no longer on the other side. The darkness was no longer alive and hungry. It was simply an absence of light.

     Damian touched my shoulder, guiding me away from a shelf I was about to walk into. Even in natural darkness, he gleamed, his fair skin providing a little illumination. Did he appear like this to everyone or just me?

Like my style of writing? Want to read more? Here is a link to my published works…

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

#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. 

Conversations with Christopher: Peter

Pain. It cuts through his temples, making him stagger. Not even the cool kiss of the Shadow Forest’s mist or the comforting steam of the Cauldron can soften it entirely. 

Christopher breathes in the musty air, dust, shelves covered with items hiding in cracks and corners. Things a customer don’t realize they want, let alone need. A statue of a muscular man with a hen’s head leers at him with beady eyes. 

The shelves are too close. Their smell makes him sick. 

Peter: Here.

A hand guides him through the shelves, to the door. Chimes tingle when it opens. 

That sound is soothing, easing some of the pain. 

Christopher staggers across the threshold into the main street of Omphalos. Thankfully no one else is around. Peter follows. 

Peter: Do you do that often?

Christopher gets a brief memory flash of Damian putting a hand to his temple, groaning. 

Christopher: (lifting a hand to his brow) I wonder if this is what Damian felt in the Navel. When he said he felt trapped in there. 

Peter: Do you feel trapped? Are you unhappy?

Christopher: (shaking his head) This is the happiest I’ve ever been. Even though I still miss Damian. 

Peter: Were you happy when he was here?

Christopher: (pressing a hand to a temple which throbs a little less painfully in the open air) Happier than I thought I could be.

Peter: (smiling a little) Thought you were incapable of happiness, did you?

Christopher: Not incapable. Just not that happy with something so simple. Small things were so beautiful, so precious after the Shadow Forest. Time slowing down to something that didn’t constantly chase my imagination. 

Peter: (licking his lips and swallowing) Ah, so time can actually keep pace with one’s shifting mental imagery beyond the Door.

Christopher: It’s far more terrible than you realize. (He starts walking down the street away from Peter.) Anything which crosses your mind may manifest. Even if you don’t want it to. 

Peter: (following him) Sounds like you must have been a god on the other side. 

Christopher: (with a bitter laugh) Anyone can be a god on the other side. 

Peter stops for a moment with a convulsive shudder which makes him sway upon his feet.

Christopher: (glancing over his shoulder) Whether or not you would want to be a god is another matter entirely. 

Peter: (starting to trot after him) Who wouldn’t want to be a god? All that power!

Christopher: Exactly. (looking ahead) All that power. It comes with responsibility. 

Peter: Don’t assume everyone is afraid of that. 

Christopher: You should be. Wield great power and you’ll make great mistakes. 

Peter: Not to mention accomplish great things. 

Christopher: (stopping) Just what do you think a god is, Peter?

Peter: Someone who isn’t bound by mortal concerns or constraints. 

Christopher: Exactly. It’s overwhelming. 

Peter: To be overwhelmed like that, how I envy you. 

Christopher: Why? (He stops, turns around to look at Peter.) Why do you want to be overwhelmed?

Peter: I’m too easily underwhelmed. Too small. Too powerless. Unable to help or save anyone. Unable to release myself from my own restrictions. 

Christopher: Restrictions can define us, bringing rewards a god is incapable of appreciating. 

Peter: (raising an eyebrow) You think I’m unappreciative?

Christopher: Of the consequences of a god’s actions? Yes. 

Peter: Perhaps you’re too sensitive about such things. 

Christopher: I wasn’t suited to godhood. 

Peter: Don’t assume I’m not just because I want it. 

Christopher: (taking a step closer to Peter) We always want what we don’t have. (He reaches out a cheek to touch Peter’s cheek.) Appreciating what we do is much harder. 

Peter: (taking his hand and kissing it) Is that why you reject me? Once I have you, I won’t appreciate you. Is that what you think?

Christopher: I fear you love the quest far more than the treasure you seek. Whether it’s something you desire in another person or godhood. 

Peter: (dropping his hand) And your beloved Damian? Did he appreciate you?

Christopher: (turning away) Yes, I believe he did. For a while. Only I wasn’t enough. Not enough to satisfy him. Let alone make him happy. 

Peter: Is anyone? Just because a feeling is fleeting, should you turn away from it? I never have.

Christopher looks up at the top of the hill. Sometimes he sees a ruined tower up there. Sometimes a circle of standing stones. 

This time he sees dancing lights, twinkling and twirling around each other. He knows there will be a pond lying beneath them. A pond filled floating colors, disappearing and dissolving into each other. 

Christopher: (smiling sadly) No, you haven’t, have you?

He keeps walking, not looking back.

Peter puzzled, frowning, keeps following him. 

#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 other LGBTQIA+ stories, go to…

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

The holidays are over and I’m not feeling remotely festive. Not with all the cat concerns I’m facing in real life. Time to open a Door and escape into the Shadow Forest in Stealing Myself From Shadows. Only it’s not the Shadow Forest Christopher is in, but Omphalos. And now he’s face to face with the Navel, the odd shop on the main road through Omphalos…

  This shop had a dusty window, displaying a skull and a deck of cards lying on a bed of purple velvet. 

    The skull caught my eye before the sign. Weathered and in need of painting, it took me a moment before I saw the image of a rounded stomach and a belly button.

    “The Navel.” I felt my face color. The mysterious Gabrielle, soon to be my mother, had a sense of humor.

Conversations with Christopher: Danyel and Tayel

The mist is usually gentle, stroking his skin with cool touches. This time it was wet, slobbering all over him with icy tongues. Rain splashed upon his skin from overhead. 

Christopher: The sky is crying. This is supposed to be a good sign in the scribbler’s world. Her people need the rain. Don’t they?

Something thunders above in a dark cloud. The rain begins to pour, drenching Christopher. 

There’s a light at the window of a cottage in the murky gloom, revealing the shapes of other cottages. They appear and reappear, as if uncertain if they’re part of the landscape or not.

A doorway opens. The other cottages disappear. There’s is only one, the source of the light beaming out from a home. It shines upon the tousled golden waves of the boy in the doorway, beckoning to Christopher.

Danyel: Quick, come in!

Christopher stumbled forward, not as quick as he’d like to be, but he makes it to the waiting doorway and crosses the threshold. Danyel closes the door behind him. 

He’s in a kitchen. Another boy sits at a table, one identical to Danyel in appearance.

Christopher: Hello, Tayel. Thank you for inviting me in, Danyel.

Tayel: Hell followed by an o. How appropriate. (His voice is softer than his words as are his eyes, inspecting Christopher.)

Danyel: Shut up, Tayel. I was about to make us some tea. 

The boy hurries to the kettle humming over the hearth, grabbing a quilted potholder, and lifts the kettle. 

Christopher: (shivering) That’s very kind of you, but will any of us be able to drink that? Even though the fire is very welcome. Holding something warm would be welcome as well. 

Tayel: Getting out of your wet clothes would be equally welcome. 

Christopher: You’re losing some of your enigma, Tayel. That wasn’t much of a riddle. (He pulls off his black tunic, hesitates before revealing bare skin.)

Tayel: There’s is little to be revealed and nothing to be ashamed of. 

Danyel: (his cheeks color as he pours water into a waiting teapot) It’s only polite to look away. Or turn your back, Tayel.

Tayel: (rolling his eyes) Awkwardness will only flourish in such shyness. (He still turns his back, a matching blush to Danyel’s in his cheeks.)

Christopher strips off his shirt and his pants, removes his boots. There’s a waiting blanket on one of the chairs. 

Christopher: You were expecting me. 

Danyel: Aren’t we always?

Tayel: Whether we’re ready or not. 

Christopher: The feeling is mutual, but not unwelcome. (He covers himself with the blanket, leaving his arms free.)

Danyel brings over a couple of cups. Tayel turns around. 

Danyel: You’ll be able to drink this. Some of it at least. It’s made from pixie tears, a flower which grows where Doors appear. 

Tayel: Born between dream and reality much as we are. Able to consume us and be consumed. 

Danyel: Hopefully we’ll be doing the consuming. (He goes to fetch a third cup for himself.)

Christopher: (raising his and breathing in its aroma; a perfume of roses, apples, and the air on an afternoon under a changing sky with Damian nearby) Where did you find this flower?

Danyel: Map grows it. We harvest it. 

Christopher: So this is Map’s kitchen, her home. 

He looks around, sees an archway leading into a cozy room filled with a bookshelves, a few chairs, and cushions scattered across the floor. There’s a space on that floor where a golden circle is painted. 

The circle is exactly like the one in the Navel. 

Danyel: (sitting down at the table with his own cup, near Christopher, across from Tayel) It’s magic, that circle. The little bit of magic Map allows. 

Tayel shifts in his seat, looking a bit uncomfortable. 

Christopher: You stand in the center and it transports you to another part of the cottage. A part that’s hidden from most, a secret sanctuary. 

Danyel: (gazing at him with wide eyes) You make it sound far more magical than it is. This leads to Leiwell’s room. Only he gave it to us. 

Tayel: Revealing too much may be neither welcome nor wise.

Christopher: Perhaps not, but I appreciate the revelation. (He picks up his cup, sips it.) This is very good. 

Danyel smiles, blushing all the more. Tayel smiles, too, but it’s a tiny guarded smile. 

Christopher: Since you revealed something to me, I’ll reveal something to you. I have a similar circle in my former home. It takes me from a shop up to where my bedroom was. 

Tayel: The Navel. Where people coming looking things they didn’t know they were looking for. The center of all things bizarre. 

Christopher: (nods, not entirely surprised Tayel knows this) According to my mother, yes. 

Danyel: You said it was your former home. Don’t you live at the Navel anymore?

Tayel: Too many question open the Door to answers. (He gives an oddly protective glance at Christopher.) Answers hurt. 

Christophr: Yes, they do, but I don’t mind answering. (He does his best to smile. It’s easier than he thought it would be.) I made a choice to leave my home behind.

Danyel: Why?

Tayel: Danyel.

Christopher: It’s all right. I needed to go on a journey, a quest to find something. To find someone. To do it, I had to leave my home behind.

Danyel: You can’t return home? (He leans forward, worry prickling his smooth brow.) Once you find what…who…you’re looking for?

Tayel sits very still in his seat, hands around his cup. He gazes at Christopher from under lowered eyelashes, something gleaming beneath them. 

Christopher: I don’t know. I hope so, but perhaps I’ll change too much. I may not be able to go back. 

Danyel: Is that a good thing? Or a bad thing?

Christopher: I don’t know. (It’s harder to smile a second time.) I’ll let you know when I find out.

Danyel: Promise?

Tayel lets out a sound between a sigh or a hiss. It’s unclear whether it’s directed at Danyel for asking for a promise or a warning to Christopher not to make one. Perhaps it’s both. Perhaps he’s right to be wary of promises which may be impossible to keep. 

Christopher doesn’t want to be wary. Not with these two. 

Christopher: I promise.

Danyel’s bright smile is reward enough for promising. 

Here’s hoping neither of them end up regretting it. 

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

#QueerBlogWed: Danyel’s Dream

On May 16, 2022, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt. It involved a raft, an urgent trip, and a pipe.

This Tale of Omphalos, in particular Danyel was the result…

He sensed it was a dream the moment he saw Map struggling to get into a raft. She’d never leave her cottage or her family. 

“Why are you doing this?” he protested. “I thought you didn’t want to go anywhere, like Tayel!”

“Now, now, I have to take this urgent trip.” She patted him on the head, stuck her pipe inside her loose tunic. “Someone needs my help, got themselves stuck behind some blasted Door. You and your brothers should manage for a few days.”

Brothers, yes. He had brothers. Leiwell, tall, dark-haired, with emerald green eyes. Foolish trips off to mysterious places were more his sort of thing. 

Not to mention Tayel. Tayel would never take a foolish trip off to a mysterious place. Most places weren’t mysterious to him, just unpleasant. 

Yes, his brothers, Leiwell and Tayel. He was Danyel. For a moment he’d felt like someone else, as if that name had been given to someone else. 

“But why are you taking that pipe?” The question was somehow very important, even though he didn’t understand why. “You don’t smoke, except when you blow rainbows when no one is looking.”

“Oh ho, have you caught me doing that, have you?” She grinned, her wrinkled face like a mischievous walnut. “Guess you could say I’m partial to pipe dreams, even though I thought I gave them up.”

“Does whomever you’re trying to save need a rainbow?” He struggled to understand the reason for this departure, even though it seemed unreal. Of course it was unreal. It was a dream. 

“You might say that.” She settled down in the raft, fixing a sharp black eye on him. “Maybe I need to smoke a rainbow to catch a rainbow. Maybe it’s the only way to send Christopher’s rainbow dragon back to him.”

“Christopher.” The name caught in his throat, making every hair tingle. “Who is Christopher?”

“Guess you don’t remember.” Map huffed, pushing the raft off the river’s bank. “Be a good boy, take care of your brothers, and don’t daydream too much about the tower! You’ll get its attention, make it a lot more than it ought to be.”

“Map, wait!” Danyel tried to call, only to find the words stuck in his throat. “Wait!” 

He woke up to his own cry, staring at the attic ceiling. 

“No point in calling after dreams.” Tayel was laying on his side beside him, staring at him with overly bright eyes. “They’ll only come back when they’re ready.”

“It was Map. She was leaving us.” Danyel rolled over to face his twin, their noses inches away from eah other. “She was looking for Christopher.”

There was no surprise in Tayel’s voice. “Map is downstairs, making the walls rumble as she slumbers as always. Listen.”

Danyel listened. 

Sure enough, he could Map’s snores through the walls and floor, heaving breathing and snuffling, like a dangerous bear hibernating. Not to be disturbed, not even by dreams of her departure. 

“Who is Christopher?” Danyel gazed at his twin’s lips, his glittering eyes. “That name sounds so familar.”

“Familar are the figures within the pages of book, coming to life in story.” Tayel shut his eyes. “He may have been one of them.”

“He may have been.” Come to think of it, the name did sound like someone who might have been in a story. “I can’t help feeling like he’s much more than that.”

“Anyone is more if you allow them to be.” Tayel turned away to face the ceiling. “To give them such power may be a dubious idea.”

“Like thinking the tower is more than a pile of rocks?” Yes, Map had mentioned the tower, too, hadn’t she?  “You sound just like Map. Warning us not to daydream because it’s dangerous.”

“If more than one warns you against the perils of imagination, you should consider before daring them.” Tayel kept his eyes closed, his lips pressed together.

“How I not dare? How can we not daydream?” Danyel demanded. “I know you do it. Why don’t you want to talk about Christopher?”

“Whispering your fears in the night encourages them to whisper back.” Tayel rolled away, leaving Danyel facing his back. “Go to sleep.”

Danyel didn’t answer. There was no point in doing so. His mind, however, refused to be quiet. 

Maybe so, but I’m not afraid of Christopher. I feel like he’s someone I want to remember, but somehow, someone is stopping me. 

He swallowed, pulling the covers up to his chin, only to have Tayel yank them away. 

You’re a blanket thief. Tayel didn’t speak, but Danyel heard the words in his head. 

For a moment Danyel forgot his worries and his questions. He just grinned. 

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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. 

#RainbowSnippets: Stealing Myself From Shadows

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

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In Stealing Myself From Shadows, Christopher had just accepted Damian’s hand, stepping into his world. This will be my last share from my NaNoWriMo project for a while since it’s December, the perfect time to trot out my Christmas publications. Enjoy!

 I gasped in inarticulate delight to look up at the sun, to squint away from its brightness in an endless blue sky.  I dug my toes into the squishy earth beneath my feet, the soft grass. 

    Ah, my feet were bare. That was a problem, wasn’t it? 

    I looked down at my body, touched the loose, short white tunic covering it. 

    For a moment a flash of memory, of boys dressed like me, flowers in their hair blazed in my mind, only to disappear, leaving me cold. 

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