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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#QueerBlogWed: Just a Dream

On June 8, P.T. Wyant posted at ptwyant.com a Wednesday Words prompt involving beans, a gate falling of its hinges and a star.

This Tale of the Navel, Tale of Omphalos, a freebie story for The Hand and the Eye of the Tower was the result…

The beans had climed over a gate falling off its hinges. 

As long as I’d been in Omphalos, that gate had been in a state in disrepair. Never more so now. 

“Does anyone ever harvest those beans?” I didn’t look at my companion. Instead I stared at the star in the sky. 

It shone with a reproachful brightness which reminded me of Tayel’s eyes. How aggrieved he’d be if he knew I was sneaking around with his precious twin. Even if it was just in a dream. 

“Map gathers them. She makes a soup or a stew with these beans.” I could hear the slight hitch in Danyel’s breath, feel his shy gaze. “She doesn’t like to use meat.”

“No, she doesn’t.” I let out a sigh, imagining Map’s furrowed brow at the notion of any living creature having to die to feed another. “She will, though.”

Just because she didn’t like to eat meat didn’t mean she wouldn’t eat it. Or try to feed it to others. 

“Christopher.” Danyel’s small hand tugged at mine. “I’m dreaming of you, aren’t I? Why do I always dream of you, but I can never remember you when I wake up?”

I turned, allowing myself to look at his upturned button nose, the curl of silvery golden hair falling over his forehead. Luminous violet-blue eyes too big for his face gleamed with reflected starlight, mixing with the heartfelt question shining back at me. 

In an unguard moment, I told him the truth. 

“Because I’m selfish. I shouldn’t be talking to you, but I can’t stay away.” I tried to smile. “I’m lonely. I’m only like my former self when I’m with you in a dream.”

“Why?” He tugged at my hand again. “Why can’t you come see me…us…when you’re awake? Why do you hide in a dream?”

“Your brother doesn’t want me anywhere near you.” I pressed his hand with my fingers, delighting in being a physical person again. The price, however, was too high to do this anywhere than in a dream. “He’s right to be protective of you. He’s right to be worried.”

“Why?” He repeated his favorite word, the one he pestered all of his loved ones with in the manner of determined innocents. “Why should he worry about you? You wouldn’t hurt me. Would you?”

I turned away, allowing myself to dissolve into the mists, leaving him to gaze at a damaged gate covered with beans. 

Soon Danyel would be waking up. Soon he’d find himself lying next to Tayel, wondering what happened. 

Tayel would guess exactly what happened. He’d be hurt, worried, and upset with me. Sensing the danger, the truth of me, yet unwilling to name it. 

I was always with them, watching over them, even if it wasn’t as a living person. I was waiting for Danyel and Tayel, even though I hoped they’d keep away. 

I was getting too hungry and lonely to be careful. I’d given up too much of myself to bring Danyel and Tayel into the existence. To let them go, beyond the Door, to find a life as real as the one Damian had given me.

Part of me would always want them back. Part of me counted on them returning to me. 

The other part of me dreaded that reunion. Dreaded what might happen, what I might do when I met the twins in the waking world. 

Danyel was getting more and more persistent about seeking me out in his dreams. He seemed to want to find me as much as I wanted to be found. 

Tayel was afraid of me. Afraid of what I’d do to him, to both of the twins, but particularly to Danyel. Afraid I could take away everything he held dear. 

Alas, I could. This was part of the reason I dreaded meeting the twins in the flesh. Why I contented myself with glimpses in dreams and visions. Watching them through walls of stone. 

They were curious. They couldn’t help but wonder. Not even Tayel, no matter how hard he tried not to. 

Peter had once accused me of being entirely too irresistible. Of invoking a passion to get closer to me which bordered on madness. 

I hadn’t believed him. To accept such a thing was both vanity and undeserved. 

Seeing Danyel’s eyes shine at me made me worry. Just what had I kindled in this innocent life I’d created?

I feared we were both going to find out. 

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Conversations with Christopher: Map

Mist rises, swallowing the road, the cottages on either side of it. The gate ahead disappears.

Christopher turns back to look for Peter, but he, too, has disappeared. 

He swallows, keeps walking. The stone beneath his feet turns into gravel. A glance down reveals tiny blades of grass and flowers poking through the pebbles. They start to wither, becoming dust. The crunch of the pebbles beneath his boots softens. 

He looks down again to see white sand upon the ground. 

The mist darkens to a opaque gray. A lantern sways in the distance, blue and green light swirling around each other, captured in the glass.

Christopher follows the light to the hooded figure carrying it. One wrinkled, weary hand emerges from a billowing sleeve, holding onto it for dear life. 

The wind gust past Christopher, blowing back the hood to reveal Map’s tired face, her shadowed eyes. 

Tiny invisible hands tear at Map’s robes, at Christopher’s hair. 

Map: Pay them no mind. It will only make them stronger. 

Her warning makes it impossible not to Christopher. The wind wails, moans, and complains. Christopher hears Jupitre’s lamenting in its cry. 

My lost light, the power which once crackled in my hand. Why did you abandon me?

Map stops in the tracks, tension vibrating in her bent shoulders.

Map: Why? Did you ever ask what it was like to be squeezed? To be swallowed whole? You only notice the pain when you’re the one feeling it!

Christopher: I thought that would only make him stronger?

Map: If he was stronger, maybe he’d shut up. 

Christopher: Are you sure he’s talking to you?

Map: (turning to give him a speculative look) Do you think he’s talking to you?

Christopher: I don’t know.

Map: It doesn’t matter. He blames us both. 

The light caught in her lantern, a pulsing blue and green energy beat against the glass walls. 

Please, Map. Let us out. 

The trap doesn’t instruct. It only confines. 

Christopher recognizes the two voices, the pulses of energy. He flinches. 

Christopher: They’re your children. Why are you doing this? Why not let them out?

Map: They’ve been bad. (She tapped against the glass.) They did things they weren’t supposed to do. They lost themselves because of it. 

Christopher: Didn’t we do the same when we opened a Door? 

Map: (frowning) You let them go.

Christopher: They were taken from me.

Map: To protect them. I have to protect them and you. I have to take you all somewhere safe.

Christopher: (looking around in the darkness, wind ripping at his clothes) Is there any such place?

Map: (heaving a sigh) No. No matter how hard we try to find, someone always finds us.

Christopher: Instead of hiding, why not help them…us…prepare for being found?

Map: We’ll never be prepared.

Christopher: It’s worth trying. Better than just wandering and hiding. 

Map regards him for a long moment. She sets the lantern down upon the sand and opens it. 

The light come flying out in streaks of color over the sand. They leave a trail of grass and flower in their wake. 

The sky lightens as the mist clears, revealing grass peeking out of the sand, even beneath his feet. 

Christopher: Why are the plants no longer turning to dust beneath my feet? 

Map: I don’t know. Why did I release the lights? They’ll only spend their energy and fade faster. 

Christopher: Only you can answer that. Maybe you didn’t want to make them cry. 

Map laughs, some of the sadness lifting from her brow. She and Christopher watch a tree shoot out from the ground, branches spreading out. 

Map: What will the price be for all this? Will it be worth it?

Christopher: It’s what they wish to do with their energy.

Map smiles, showing a hit of the sphinx she sometimes becomes in these strange places beyond the Door. 

Map: Good answer. 

#QueerBlogWed: Map Mutters Part 3

All seemed to be going surprisingly well between Map and her former student (and victim), but matters are not what they seem in the final part of this Tale of Omphalos inspired by the prompts of P.T. Wyant at ptwyant.com

“We’ll get a chance to get to know each other,” she added, swallowing another sigh. Now she was committed. She had to go out. She had to get to know the people of Omphalos. 

At least this one. 

Meggie reached out to pat her arm with a tentative shyness. “I, um, hope so. Maybe we can be an um, good influence on each other. After all, we’re all, um, Followers of Seraphix here.”

Map froze at her words. “What did you say?”

Meggie froze, too, for a moment. The next she pulled out a cord hiding under her blouse, a cord with a silver coin upon it. A strange symbol was etched upon it. Map couldn’t tell if it was a person or a strange rune. 

“That’s, um, why we’re here. To bring Seraphix back as our, um, god.” Meggie glanced down at the coin. “We came, um, to build Omphalos so we could do that.”

“Your lord brought you here for that?” Map swallowed a throat which was very dry. “To somehow summon Seraphix?”

“Oh, no, um, not our lord.” Meggie blinked in surprise. “Ashleigh. Your wife. She was the one who brought us together. She was the one who urged us to come here.”

Map swallowed, closed her eyes, repressed an urge to put her fist through something. The cottages were too far away from the road. The only thing close enough was the woman in front of her. 

No. Meggie had been through enough at her former master’s hands. She wasn’t about to take a swing at her. Especially when she wasn’t the one Map was angry with. 

Behind her eyelids, she could visualize Ashleigh’s smiling face, pushing a lock of silvery-golden hair back behind an ear.

I know I haven’t been here for you or the boys, but I’m going to make it up to you. I’ll bring the world to you. A world we can all be part of. 

“I, um, thought you knew.” A furrow of concern wrinkled Meggie’s brow. “Map, are you all right? I, um, get the impression you’re not. Not really. Not with, um, everything that’s happening. Omphalos being built and all.”

“Simple yet insightful.” Map rubbed her eyes. “It’s all something of a surprise to me.”

“I, um, can’t speak for everyone.” Meggie fidgeted a bit. “I’m, um, not trying to force anyone to be, um, part of something they, um, don’t want.”

“No.” Map lifted her head, offered her former student a weary smile. “That’s not you.”

“I’m, um, not sure what’s me.” Meggie raised her own chin, a glint of something resolute sparking in her sleepy eyes. “I, um, wouldn’t be alive if not for our lord. I owe him everything. For bringing me back. Returning me to my sister. Introducing me to, um, my husband.”

“Yes,” Map said with some bitterness. Meggie’s precious lord had done all of that while her former master had reduced her to nothing. 

She couldn’t blame Meggie for following that creature. She couldn’t blame anyone for it. 

Except Ashleigh. Ashleigh should have known better than to trust a shadow’s promises. Even if Dyvian had become more than a shadow. 

“I, um, had better go.” Once more Meggie ducked her head. “It was nice meeting you.”

She hurried down the road before Map could say anything more. 

“Nice,” her former master muttered under her breath, spinning on her heel to watch her go. “I suppose it was.”

Nice, yet terrifying. Terrifying to see what the creature who chosen to play the local lord could do.

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

“How am I supposed to win this bet?” she muttered to herself. “Especially if you’ve got so many other people I love on your side? Including Ashleigh?”

The cobblestones didn’t answer. 

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#QueerBlogWed: Map Mutters Part 2

This is Part 2 of a Tale of Omphalos inspired by P.T. Wyant’s prompts at ptwyant.com. Map was ready to retort to that voice in her memories when she saw an all-too familiar face…

It wasn’t possible. It couldn’t be her. If it was, Map didn’t want to know. 

“What are you looking at?” she snarled, projecting every bit of hag-like menace she possessed at the woman. 

“You,” the young woman said, flushing a bit, wringing a burgundy skirt with a beautiful golden stitching around the hem. Much finer than the one covering Map’s lower body. “You’re not as beautiful as my husband, but you’ve got a glow. Um, it shines out from beneath your wrinkles, even if you’re, uh, trying to hide it.”

“Seraphix’s eyeballs, girl, do you still just blurt out whatever is on your mind?” Map snapped before she could think better of it. “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a hundred times not to just go saying those things to anyone. Especially some hag you’ve just met in the street. Especially if you’re married!”

“Um, have you?” Megan of the Sisters of Seraphix blinked those sleepy hazel eyes at her. “You seem, um, familar, but this is the first time we’ve met. Isn’t it?”

“Too many people seem familiar around here.” Map took refuge in vagueries, keenly aware of how much she sounded like Tayel. “Sorry for snapping at you as if you were.”

“Oh, that’s no trouble. My husband often says worse things.” Sister Megan blushed, brushing a stray russet curl away from her face. “I’m Meggie. We’re, um, neighbors. You’re Map, right? One of Danyel and Tayel’s mums?”

“You know who I am.” Another statement with a double-meaning. She’d see how Sister Megan…no, the lass had a husband now…Meggie would take it. 

“You were at Juno’s party. The one she, um, threw for our lord.” Meggie blinked slowly. As if she wasn’t sure of her words. “Not sure if that’s the same as, um, knowing someone.”

“True.” Map found herself smiling, in spite of herself. This one had always made her smile with her cheerful simplicity, her honesty, except for when it came to pastries. Especially custard tarts. 

Once she spotted a custard tart, or a pile of them, Sister Megan turned into a thief. It hadn’t been safe to leave them unguarded around her. 

Those had been simpler memories. Much better than the night when she’d found her claws and wings. The night she’d changed. 

The night a bewitchingly beautiful pale-haired boy had stepped out of the shadows and into a puddle of red ooze. 

No. Map would not dwell on that night. She couldn’t. 

She’d thought she’d lost the other Sisters of Seraphix that night, yet here was one of them. Alive and whole. 

“Meeting someone isn’t the same as knowing them. Even if you think you know them, they can surprise you.” She reached out to touch Meggie’s arm. 

Meggie flinched, blushing even more. “Um, sorry. Sometimes I’m shy about the, um, oddest things. I get uneasy, even though I, um, don’t know why.”

“Being uneasy around someone you don’t know shows good sense.” She nodded, an approving gesture she’d given the girl many times in the past. “You’re right. I’m one of Danyel and Tayel’s mums. Leiwell’s, too.”

“Oh, Leiwell!” Meggie lifted a hand to cover a face red as an apple. “I can see where you get your beauty from, Master.”

No stutter whatsoever. 

Map froze, chill running down her back. “What did you call me?”

“I mean Map.” Meggie ducked her head. “Um, sorry. I don’t know why I called you that. It just felt, um, natural.”

“What may seem natural could be a mistake.” Map locked her eyes with Meggie’s. “Never call me master again. I am no one’s master. I’m not worthy to be one.”

“Really?” Once again Meggie’s hazel eyes widened. “Um, I think you’d be a brilliant master.”

“Now why you go thinking that? You’ve just met me!” The old chiding tone came back to her voice, not unmingled with affection. “Get to know me a little better before you decide I’m brilliant at anything.”

“Yes, um, well, I do feel like I’ve met you.” Meggie ducked her head again. “I’d, um, like to get to know you better. If you’d, um, let me. You don’t come out of the, um, cottage very much. The party was the, um, first time I saw you.”

“No, I don’t.” Map let out a sigh. How had she not noticed her former student from the Temple of Seraphix?

Probably because she’d been too preoccupied, staring in shock at the “lord” who was the guest of honor. 

“I’ll try to get out a little more often,” Map said, suppressing a sigh. She’d been determined to avoid the villagers. To stay out of whatever game their lord was playing with them. 

Except Meggie was someone she’d known and been responsible for. Someone she’d thought she’d destroyed. 

How many other Sisters of Seraphix were part of this strange colony who’d decided to form a village around Map’s cottage? How many other people she’d once known?

She couldn’t hide from them forever. 

(To be continued next Wednesday…)

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. 

#QueerBlogWed: Map Mutters Part 1

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

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

This is the first part…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(To be continued next Wednesday…)

#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. 

Like my style of writing? Want to read more? Find buy links to my published works at…

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Conversations with Christopher: Iama’s Hall of Mirrors

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

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

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

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

Iama: You’re a creature of many faces.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iama: I have no victims. Only companions. 

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

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

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

Christopher: Must you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christopher: Why?

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

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

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

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

Christopher: Was it princesses? Or just one princess?

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

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

Christopher: This sounds like a story in itself. 

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

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

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

Iama: This name is unknown to me. 

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

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

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

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

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

Iama: True. 

(To be continued next Monday.)

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

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#QueerBlogWed: Mel’s Master

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warm hand took hers. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was enough. It would have to be enough.