Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Dayel's Discomfort, Part 8

It's QueerBlogWed! Disoriented, jet lagged from my journeys, I return to from being unplugged to blink at my Forbidden Cauldron, see where we last left off.

I set up the monster post to continue to cranking of Dayel's Discomfort in my absence. This should be the final part. :)


“No need to be modest!” Juno called after them. “I’m sure the ring would suit your hand very well, Danyel, dear!” Once more, she was all eager friendliness. “Be sure to come back if you change your minds!”

“Why did you do that?” Danyel demanded, but he let Dayel drag him through the crowds. “Something about that ring spoke me, almost sang in the back on my mind.” He glanced down at their interlocking fingers. “I’m almost sure I’ve seen it before.” His flesh trembled within Dayel’s grip. “It’s almost like it wanted me to want it.”

“Exercise your right of refusal to hungry…anythings…every once in a while!” Dayel growled. “A symbol of ritual bondage is not to be accepted lightly!”

Danyel’s breath caught in his throat.

“Ritual bondage,” he murmured to himself as much as his twin. “I think I know where I saw that ring.” He swallowed. “Christopher was wearing it.”

“All the more reason for you not to.” Dayel picked up speed, putting as much distance between Danyel and Juno’s booth as possible. “Don’t pick up any more rocks from the Shadow Forest. It only leads to trouble.”

“Dayel.”

Danyel stopped, planting his feet firmly in the ground. 

It forced Dayel to stop, too. If he didn’t, he’d be forced to let go of Danyel. 

He’d never do that. Never. 

Hands still entwined, he turned to face his twin. 

Their eyes met. 

Danyel’s, unlike Dayel’s, had no unearthly silver light, even if they were the same violet blue as his twin’s. 

The only thing they gleamed with was conviction. 

Not that that was something to be underestimated. 

“Picking up rocks is what I do.” Danyel swallowed, but he didn’t look away from his brother. “I don’t want to stop.”

It was Dayel who swallowed, whose gaze dropped to his feet. 


What could he say to that?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Dayel's Discomfort, Part 7

I'm not currently here, but Danyel and Dayel continue their Monster Post, inspired by P.T. Wyant's August 2nd festival prompt at ptwyant.com.

“A marriage feast is different.” Danyel spoke to himself as much as to Juno and Map. Once more, he fixed his eyes upon the ring. “It lasts for only one night.”

“The best night of a boy’s life!” Juno returned her attention to Danyel, all smiles once more. “He’s pampered and treated like a godling, worshipped and admired by all around him, given anything his heart could desire.”

“Except more time.” Mel allowed a corner of her mouth to quirk upwards in an ironic smile. “A bride drains her chosen bridegroom of his strength and incipient manhood, leaving only a beautiful shell behind to stand in her garden.”

“Bridegrooms are never taken unwillingly.” Juno separated her hands. “Every boy dreams being a bridegroom. They gossip about their potential brides all the time, while growing up.” She wagged a finger at her daughter. “It’s a ritual unique to the arachnocratic lands, deserving of respect.”

Danyel reached a hand towards the sparkling stone. 

No. Bad things happened with Danyel touched things. 

Dayel reached out and swatted his brother’s hand away before he could lay a finger on the ring. 

Danyel turned towards him, a protest on his lips. 

Dayel seized his hand firmly in his own. He laid a finger from his free hand upon his brother’s mouth, silencing him. 

“Jewelry ill becomes Danyel.” He turned his head to lock his gaze with Juno’s. 

Yes, he could see some of the wrinkles on her face opening to reveal tiny eyes. Each orb stared at him. 

Dayel stared back, willing whatever scary, glittering thing that lived within his own eyeballs to meet that inhuman gaze. 

“That particular ring doesn’t belong on my brother’s hand.” He could feel the brightness in irises flare with his own fear. 

Juno closed her additional eyes, dazzled by whatever she saw in Dayel’s. 

He pulled his twin away from the booth and started walking, keeping a firm grip on his twin’s hand. 


He could sense Mel’s silent approval, beating at his back. If he turned, Dayel guessed she’d be trying not to grin and failing. 

To be continued on Wednesday, September 20, 2017....

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Dayel's Discomfort, Part 6

I'm currently not here, but Danyel and Dayel are continuing the monster post, inspired by P.T. Wyant's festival prompt at ptwyant.com.

“Marriage is a commitment to unite two houses, those houses’s combined family lines.” Juno clasped her hands together. “Marriage unites a man and a woman’s fortunes and hearts, making them as one.” She raised her hands to her lips. “Husband and wife vow to pass these things down to their children, the ones they raise together.” 

She unknotted her hands, which trembled. 

“That is what marriage is or what it should be.” She waved in dismissive scorn at her daughter, rings flashing. “Anything else is a pale imitation of that!”

Juno cast a withering glance in the direction of Leiwell’s booth. 
No, not Leiwell. Map. 

Map had turned away from the fire. A smile tugged at her wrinkled face as she greeted the booth’s visitor. 

It was Ashleigh. Leiwell, Danyel, and Dayel’s other mother, who’d stopped by in making her rounds of the festival. She’d been one of the villagers who organized it. 

A cap with a feather in it perched on her golden head at a jaunty angle, Ashleigh leaned against the booth, smiling at Map. The two women looked into each other’s eyes. 

Juno’s lower lip trembled at bit. She looked away, down at the jewelry in front of her. 

It wasn’t the first time she’d given the boys’s mothers such angry looks. For the first time, Dayel understood why. 

Map lived with Ashleigh, the boys’s other mother. She’d rasied Leiwell, Dayel, and Danyel by herself without the help of this marriage. 

In many ways, Map and Ashleigh practiced marriage exactly as Juno described. They shared everything, although they were hardly one. 

They were two women, not a man and a woman, though. 

Ridiculous. Juno had no right to judge. She was hardly living her own ideal. She and Jupitre failed to live as one as spectacularly as Ashleigh and Juno did. 

There was only one way to become one that Dayel knew of. Get devoured by a shadow. 

Perhaps the arachnocratic brides were closer to being one with their bridegrooms than a husband and wife ever could be. 

Dayel tried not to shudder. He really didn’t want to hear anything more about marriage feasts. 


Alas, there was no stopping Danyel, once his curiousity was roused. 

To be continued on Wednesday, September 6, 2017...

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Dayel's Discomfort, Part 5

On August 2, 2017, P.T. Wyant posted a prompt at ptwyant.com involving a festival.

Danyel (one of the major characters from Tales of the Navel/The Shadow Forest) was really excited about going to such a festival.

Dayel wasn't. He did his best to hide in my imagination, pulling Danyel with him, nudging Christopher forward. After all, Christopher was the star of my preludes Waiting for Rebirth and Unwilling to Be Yours at inspirationcauldron.wordpress.com. He's also the main character in Stealing Myself From Shadows, the first book of Tales of the Navel/The Shadow Forest. Better to pick on him.

Dayel's discomfort was more than my sadistic, energetic muse (who currently bears a great resemblance to Naruto) could bear. My muse didn't just inspire a post. He inspired a Monster Post, which I've had to break into segments.

There's been four parts so far, posted both here and at my Facebook Author Page.

Here's Part 5 of Dayel's Discomfort.

“Are men and women at war?” Danyel bit his lower lip, which trembled. “Are marriages and marriage feasts a way of fighting each other?”

“Very likely.” Mel gave a short, grim nod. “They cannot completely destroy each other, since they need the opposite gender to reproduce. Instead, they try to curb their mates’s power, to dominate and destroy their spouses.”
Perhaps Mel based her observations on Jupitre and Juno’s behavior. It all seemed a bit overly simple and neat. 

Dayel glanced at the men and women milling around, chattering, filling the air with noise. Men argued with men. Women shook their fists at women. Not all of the anger was directed at men towards women, or women towards men. 

These loud, strident creatures weren’t going to cooperate by fitting into a pattern of women versus men. They’d struggle and fight. 

For the first time, Dayel wondered if this wasn’t a good thing. There was something tragic and doomed about Mel’s pattern. Not that Dayel cared much for people or strangers in general. He still felt a little guilty by dismissing them as part of such an angry order. 

“What nonsense!” Juno made a reproving, tutting noise in the back of her throat. “To think any daughter of mine would reduce the sanctity of marriage to subversion. Not to mention accuse the stately arachnocratic ladies of murdering their husbands.”

“I speak as I have seen and found.” Mel shrugged, indifferent to her mother’s indignition. 

“Children, pay no attention to Melyssa’s dark ramblings.” Juno smiled as best she could at the twins, although her jowls still quivered with anger.  “Marriage is the foundation of the family, the basis of civilization and culture. Not to mention a means of peace and strength.”

“How so?” Danyel closed his mouth, but his eyes were still wide. “Isn’t marriage when two lovers decide to stay together forever? Or is it for raising children?”

“Ah, child, marriage is so much more than those things!” Juno sucked her lips inward, wrinkling her mouth. “A true marriage happens between a man and a woman, who join for something far more enduring than fleeting, romantic passion.” She pursed her lips.


Perhaps her own words tasted sour. Particularly the words, ‘fleeting, romantic passion’. 

To be continued in Part 6...

Monday, August 28, 2017

Me Me Monday

It's Me Me Monday! A day to post, celebrate, and promote your Me-ness, especially if you're a member of Queer Sci Fi.

For a long time, I didn't have much to celebrate. I got published, only to have to ask for the rights of work back, due to a lack of payment.

This poor Cauldron didn't have much to celebrate either, being blocked by Facebook during the Blogging From A-Z project, right after L is for Leiwell in 2016.

We're trying to make a comeback. This blog is still forbidden by Facebook. Not all of my previously published works have found homes.

One has, though. Fairest is being reborn in Nine Star Press's Once Upon a Rainbow anthology on November 20, 2017.

This is something to celebrate. In the spirit of celebration, let us chant the old refrain from my f/f fantasy fairytale...

“Who is the fairest of them all?
You, me, or her?
In castle, cottage, or circle small
What will you endure?
Are you fair of face and eye alone?
Or is your fairness true?
When under the sleeping curse you lie

What will you change into?”

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Dayel's Discomfort, Part 4

The monster post continues! This is part of a response I wrote to P.T. Wyant's August 2, 2017 Wednesday Words at ptwyant.com. It involved a festival.

Danyel wanted to go, Dayel didn't. My muse got sadistic...and busy. :)

As a result, here is Part 4 of Dayel's Discomfort, a freebie story from Tales of the Navel/The Shadow Forest. It takes place sometime between Book 2 (The Hand and the Eye of the Tower) and Book 3 (A Godling for Your Thoughts?). I've tried to avoid spoilers, but there are hints. :)

“Only the fairest, most succulent boys ever bore that on their fingers,” Juno murmured, as much to herself as to the twins. “Only for one night and one alone.”

“Why?” Danyel, always too curious for his own good had to ask. “What night was that?”

“A bridegroom’s marriage feast.” Mel, not Juno, answered the question. “The last night of his life.”

“A grim way of putting it, my dear, although I’m impressed you knew.” Juno cast a hard, metallic glance at her daughter. “Not many recall the customs of the arachnocratic lands, once they’ve left them.”

Arachnocratic lands. Arachnocratic. 

Dayel shut his eyes, trying not to see the movement at Juno’s side. 

Movement which might be extra arms, trying to conceal themselves from eyes which could see. 

“The last night of his life?” Trust Danyel, innocent dimwit that he was, to fixate on that particular detail. “Does the bridegroom get eaten? Is that why it’s a marraige feast?”

“Essentially, yes.” Mel allowed a corner of her mouth to lift in a humorless smile. “You might say he is the feast.”

“Now that is a disgusting simplification of an old and revered custom.” Juno narrowed her eyes at her daughter. “A consumation of power, when a bridegroom gives up all that is to his bride and her daughters.” Juno bit her lower lip. “Truly, it’s a beautiful ritual, as beautiful as any wedding. Only the bridegroom is at the center of everything. Not the bride.”

“Marriage or marriage feast, each depends on the subjugation of someone.” Mel ignored her mother, gazing at the forest which lay beyond the field where the tents where set up for the festival. “In a marriage, women are bound to men in a ritual of servitude. In a marriage feast, boys are drained of their strength before they can become men who’ll bound women in servitude.” Mel gripped the stand in front of her, allowing the display to rattle. “Each seeks to subvert the other via sexual ritual.”

Danyel’s jaw dropped. He stared at Melyssa, silently absorbing her words. 


Dayel tried not to shiver. He didn’t doubt Mel’s observations. She might be grumpy, but she was seldom untruthful. 

To be continued on Wednesday, August 30, 2017. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Promo Friday: Seven Tricks

I'm trying to celebrate Promo Friday once more, since I've got releases coming out via Nine Star Press. :)

Fairest has found a new home in Once Upon a Rainbow, an anthology of LGBTQ+ fairy tales. Its rebirth will be on November 20, 2017.

That's not all I've got coming out this year. :)

Seven Tricks, my Mouse Prince/Nutcracker story will be scampering hot on Once Upon a Time's heels, on November 27, 2017.

Inspired by A.T.A. Hoffman's classic, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, this is a uniquely mouse centric version of the events in Hoffman's story and the ballet inspired by it.

An impetuous mouse prince must perform seven tricks before the twelve days of Christmas are up in order to win his crown. Dodging traps, feet, and giants, he finds himself driven to win his nutcracker instead.

Here's a little teaser from the beginning of Seven Tricks...


Some say a mouse king has seven heads with seven crowns. In a way, this is true. A mouse prince must play seven tricks before the twelve days of Christmas are over. If he doesn’t, he cannot claim his throne.

“You must prove your worth, before I acknowledge you as my heir,” Madam Mousenip said to me in the shadow of the enormous ticking tower. “Only by succeeding at seven tricks will you possess what you desire.” She herself had become our sovereign through seven capers of her own, earning the name Mousenip for delivering tiny bites, which left cheese looking unscathed and humans whimpering.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Dayel's Discomfort: Part 3

On August 2, 2017, P.T. Wyant posted a prompt involving a festival at ptwyant.com.

This inspired a story which turned into a monster, much to Dayel's dismay. He found himself being dragged to a festival. Danyel wanted to take his time, enjoying Omphalos's attempt to have a such thing, an attempt which takes place between my unpublished Tales of the Navel/The Shadow Forest novels, The Hand and the Eye of the Tower and A Godling for Your Thoughts?

I'm not too worried about spoilers, although there are hints of what's to come. :)

Here we are for #QueerBlogWed, picking up right where the twins left off in Part 2, headed for Juno and Mel's booth...

“I’ve been wondering.” Danyel tried to make the words casual, off hand. “What color is Juno’s character?”

“Red.” Dayel answered, falling into their old game. “Red with repressed passion, rage, and a burning need to take action in the face of adversity.” He frowned at his own words. “Only Juno has faded to pink.”

“What makes you think that?” Danyel kept one violet blue eye fixed on his brother, still moving towards his destination. 

“Her passion has diminished.” Dayel tried to articulate the desperate, florid gestures of their new neighbor, who waved her hands, allowing the jewels on her rings to flash. “She’s trying to get it back, but her fire is dwindling to embers, leaving a faint rosy remembrance.”

Danyel didn’t have a chance to reply. The two boys stopped in front of Juno’s booth. 

“Hello, dears!” Juno beamed at the twins. “See anything you’d like for your mothers?”

“Or for yourselves.” Mel didn’t beam at them. She cast a speculative eye upon the twins. 

Dayel squirmed, feeling like he was being probed for weaknesses. 

“Several of the rings and necklaces would suit you very well.” Mel flickered her gaze from Dayel to Danyel to the jewelry on display in front of her. 

“Oh ho!” Juno chortled, lifting a pudgy hand to cover her mouth. “This may be so.” Her gray eyes gleamed with amusement. “Feel free to see if anything suits your fancy.”

Fanciful wasn’t the expression that transformed Danyel’s entire face. 

His eyes widened. His lower lip began to tremble. 

He fixed his gaze on a particular ring, ignoring everything else on display. 

Dayel turned his attention toward the item, ready to scowl at it. Nothing was allowed to distress his twin like that. Not even a bauble. 


Golden strands intersected with the ruby at the center, like filaments of a spider’s web. The ruby itself seemed to wink at him. 

To be continued on Saturday in Part 4. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Fairest Reborn

Today was the eclipse. It's also Me Me Monday for Queer Sci Fi, although this is an occasion celebrated by Facebook.

This poor Cauldron was blocked by Facebook in April 2016. You might say its life and promotional power were both eclipsed by that act of censorship.

It wants to participate, though. It wants to continue to promote and post, even though Facebook shuns it.

Which is why I'm going to share a little something from the new version of Fairest, which is going to be released on November 20, 2017.

Fairest was published by Prizm Books, the Young Adult line of Torquere Press. Alas, I was never paid for any sales my novella made. I was forced to ask for the rights to my story back.

I'm happy to say my f/f fantasy fairy tale has found a new home with Nine Star Press. It's going to appear in their Once Upon a Rainbow anthology, a collection of LGBTQ+ fairy tales.

I've tried to clean up my story a bit during edits, fix up a few things I wasn't happy about, but noticed too late during previous revisions. Hopefully, the story is stronger, yet retains the content fans of Fairest enjoyed.

One of the changes is that many of the characters now have names. Here's a little snippet of the newly revised manuscript, revealing one of those names.

This blog uses cookies I don't understand, but need to warn you about. Beware of the cookies, especially if you live in the U.N. :)

Oriana was as golden-haired as myself, although her hair was liberally dusted with silver. Indeed, she could have passed for my actual mother. She must have looked very much like me when she was my age. Her blue eyes held more wisdom than my own, wisdom and regret. Lines of care, sorrow, and loss wrinkled a once lovely face.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Paula's Prompt: Dayel's Discomfort, Part 2

Here I am, dragging the twins back to the festival for the second part of Dayel's Discomfort, a Tales of the Navel/The Shadow Forest freebie story, inspired by Paula Wyant (see her Wednesday Words for August 2, 2017 at ptwyant.com).

Danyel wasn't happy with his twin's evasiveness last Wednesday, but he's decided to do his best to ignore it and enjoy the festival. Hopefully, Dayel will talk to him eventually...

“May we have some nuts?” His twin turned to their oldest brother. “They smell delicious.”

“Try to eat them while they’re warm.” Leiwell took a fresh cone from Map’s waiting hand. “You two have a tendency to pick at your food.”

“I doubt they’ll be able to eat much,” Map grumbled. “They never do.” She fixed a critical eye on her oldest. “Like you.”

“All the more reason to savor what you can.” Unruffled by his mother’s remarks, Leiwell handed the cone to Danyel. 

He winked at Dayel when he did. 

His gestures are similar to Damian’s. Dayel had never noticed this before. 

He’d never observed Damian and Leiwell in such proximity to each other. 

Not that he was sure if Damian had ever been here. 

Or maybe he still was?

Either way, it was a disturbing thought. 

“Better to fill up on what we have to offer.” Leiwell nodded slightly in the direction of the other booths. 

Dayel was inclined to agree. He glanced at the nearest stall. 

Meggie had outdone herself. An array of cookies, cakes, and custard tarts were arranged on every available bit of space in her booth. The smell wafted out, mingling enticingly with the nuts. 

Meggie smiled at the twins, sneaking a shy, sidelong glance at Leiwell. Her attention kept drifting back to her own wares, to linger upon them with a covetous, loving greed. 

No doubt she’d happily finish off anything she didn’t sell. 

Nearby was Mel and Juno’s stall. Neither Jupitre nor Thomas appeared to be helping them.

Danyel let out a shuddering sigh of relief, not bothering to hide his satisfaction not to see his least favorite villagers. 

Dayel wasn’t sure if he should be relaxing his guard so soon. Thomas had a habit of popping wherever the twins went. 

Not that he could spot the bigger boy in this crowd. 

“It’s overwhelming, isn’t it?” Leiwell caught Dayel’s eye and held it with his own. “All these people in a place which used to be ours.”

Dayel nodded, before he could consider hiding his feeling. 

This crowd kept catching him off guard, leaving him exposed. Too many unknown people were here. Too many individuals to anticipate. 

It was hard enough dealing with those he knew and loved. 

“This will get better.” Leiwell offered Dayel an encouraging little smile. “Don’t fight the crowd. Move with it. Try to absorb.”

Once more, Dayel found himself nodding. 

“Dayel, come on!” Danyel seized his twin’s hand with his free one. The other carried a cone filled with nuts. “Thank you, Leiwell.”

“Have fun.” Leiwell smiled at both of his younger brothers, before turning to speak with someone who’d come up to the booth. 

Danyel started to dart through the crowd, moving from space to space. 

Less sure footed, Dayel followed him. Usually, he was the one who was lighter on his feet. 

All these people truly made him feel off balance. 

Danyel glanced over his shoulder at his brother, a wrinkle of concern popping out in his smooth brow. 

Dayel tried to smile in a reassuring Leiwell fashion. Heck, maybe even a toothy Damian fashion. 


It was no good. Smiling on command was simply not one of Dayel’s strong points. 

To be continued in Part 3 on Wednesday; August 24, 2017. 



Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Paula's Prompt: Dayel's Discomfort, Part 1

On Wednesday, August 2, 2017, P.T. Wyant posted a prompt involving a setting: a fair (food booths, crafts, demonstrations, etc.) and a character: lone, lost, and found. For the details, see ptwyant.com.

Dayel, one of my pair of twins in Tales of the Navel/The Shadow Forest let me know he wanted nothing to do with this fair.

He didn't like people. He met quite far too many he'd rather have nothing to do with in The Hand and the Eye of the Tower. In fact, Dayel is quite relieved I've put him, Danyel, and his family aside to revise Stealing Myself From Shadows.

Let Christopher and his story go first. Let him and Danyel have a breather. In fact, the more stories with other denizens from the Navel and the Shadow Forest, the better.

The last thing Dayel wished to go was to a festival filled with strangers.

Only Danyel really wanted to go. It sounded like a lot of fun to more extroverted of my twins.

Besides, Dayel's reluctance brought out the sadistic, gleeful pushy side of my muse. Said muse simply had to drop kick Dayel into the festival.

Here Dayel is at a festival in Omphalos, which takes place in between The Hand and the Eye of the Tower and A Godling for Your Thoughts?

Yes, both of those books have yet to be released. I've avoided outright spoilers. I am dropping hints, though, like breadcrumbs, which you might follow to a few speculations. :)

“Dayel, the wind is showing itself!” Danyel pointed at a pinwheel, spinning in the breeze. “You can see it move, through that!”

Seeing anything was difficult. Too many people clustered around, invading the air with their chatter, their demands, their sheer presence. 

Dayel tried to block them out, but their voices reached into his ears, pounding against his temples. 

“Look!” Undaunted, Danyel pointed at yet something else. “We should get one!”

Dayel blinked in the direction of his twin’s finger. 

Damian stood behind a booth, bestowing his toothy smile upon everyone around him. A row of skulls were on display in front of him.

He fixed his rose purple gaze upon Dayel. 

“Why, hello there, little mystery.” He winked. “Fancy seeing you here.”

“Illusions should stay beyond the Door.” Baffled and a little alarmed at the presence of someone who shouldn’t be in the real world, Dayel took refuge in enigma. “I refuse to encourage daydreams with attention.”

“I’d hope I’d count as more than just a daydream.” Leiwell’s dry voice, touched with a little humor, slipped from Damian’s mouth. “Otherwise, I’ll never sell these nuts.”

Dayel blinked a second time, completely confusion. 

Leiwell stood exactly where Damian had been. There were no sign of the skulls. Small cones stood before him, giving off a whiff on roasted nut, cinnamon, and other spices. 

Map bustled behind Leiwell over an open fire. 

“Dayel!” Danyel nudged his twin, peering into his face. “Where did you go?”

“I was nearly lost in a dream which haunts me, but I’m back now.” Dayel couldn’t quite meet his brother’s eyes. “Don’t let such dreams trouble the air.”


Danyel bit his lip, unconvinced, but he decided to let it go. 


Did you enjoy that surprise appearance by Damian Ashelocke? Mwa ha ha...this is the end of Part 1, but the festival isn't over, oh no. I'll continue on Saturday...


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Paula's Prompt: A Memory in a Jar

On Wednesday, July 26, 2017, P.T. Wyant shared this striking image as a prompt at ptwyant.com.

This is my response. I dipped into the mythology of my own Shadow Forest to offer up a story about Once Upon a Time and Happily Ever After, two of the higher powers which exist beyond the Door.

“This is for you.” Once Upon a Time offered the jar to Happily Ever After. 

Happily Ever After gazed at its contents, clear to the eye through the pristine glass. 

Sparkling blue waves lapped upon the gleaming expanse of a beach. Only the faintest hint of clouds marred the purity of the tranquil moment. 

“Whose memory was this?” Happily Ever After attempted to keep his voice steady. 

“Does it matter?” Once Upon a Time frowned. The gleam in his eye dimmed. 

The clouds grew grayer within the jar. For a moment, the sand stirred. The earth beneath them trembled. 

“It belonged to someone who didn’t appreciate this peaceful scene.” Once Upon a Time took a deep breath. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten it.”

The sands stilled with his attempt to quiet his temper, to stop it from shaking this moment in a jar, along with all the other moments in his thrall. 

“Perhaps that someone will value such peace, now it’s been sacrificed.” Happily Ever After meant his words to be light, allowing them to placate his opposite. 

Instead, they came out flat and somber. 

A chilly breeze tickled at the air, not within the jar, but around the two shadow masters.

“You can’t value what you don’t remember.” Once Upon a Time released his breath, adding to the cold. “You don’t like my gift.”

“It’s beautiful,” Happily Ever After protested. He meant every word. The beach was a beautiful memory, which he could shape into a perfect ending. 

Why did he feel like a thief for contemplating such a thing? It was his function, his title. 

The sky within the glass darkened, turning the ocean gray. 

“Precious.” Once Upon a Time moved forward to lay his hands against Happily Ever After’s temples. “You’re troubled by where our materials come from.” 

He leaned his forehead to press it against his companion’s. 

“Don’t ever doubt us,” Once Upon a Time whispered against his skin. “We’re doing good work here.” His lips were inches away from Happily Ever After’s. “We give the shadows something more than endless drifting and hunger.”

“By forcing them in a shape of our design,” Happily Ever After murmured into that inviting mouth. 

He looked up into his opposite’s eyes. Once Upon a Time’s were a glacier reflection of Happily Ever After’s own. A mingled blend of colors radiated and swirled within his irises; blue, purple, red, gold, silver, and green. Only Once Upon a Time’s were paler, chillier versions of those hues; ice blue, lavender, pink, cream, crystal, and lime. 

The colors reflected the man, if one could call Once Upon a Time a man. He took on male form. When the two shadow master coupled it was as males. Sometimes. Many times. 

Happily Ever After couldn’t remember them all. Sometimes, they blurred, only to return in flashbacks of eroticism which made the earth pulse and the wind sigh. 
More memorable were the times when they let go of their physical forms to take to the wind. They’d rush through the Shadow Forest together, shaking its leaves, kindling excitement in those who walked beneath them. 

Happily Ever After wasn’t sure why their cauldon of creation took on the form of a forest. Perhaps it reflected Once Upon a Time’s tastes, his idea of beginnings. 

His companion loved beginnings, along with the role he played in them. 

If only Happily Ever After loved endings as much. They were quite different than beginnings. They were terrible. 

Happily Ever After tried not to shudder at the thought of what truly lay at every ending. Perhaps something better lay beyond, but this meant getting past the true end. 

It was better to stop before, to leave his creations on a happy note. Even if doing so made Happily Ever After a liar. 

“Everyone here is hungrier because of us.” The words escaped from Happily Ever After before he could think better of them. 

Once Upon a Time recoiled, dropping his hands from Happily Ever After’s flesh. 

“Every living thing must eat.” Once Upon a Time’s lower lip trembled. “Life consumed lives in order to exist.”

“It still makes me sad.” Happily Ever After let his gaze drift to the jar. 

“Put your sadness to good use.” All softness left Once Upon a Time’s face and voice. “Create something beautiful for someone who wants it.” 

Once Upon a Time stood up, straight, growing a little taller. His shadow fell over Happily Ever After, chilling his opposite, leaving him tiny and small. 

“It saddens me how little you appreciate your master’s gift.” Once Upon a Time fixed Happily Ever After with a stern, patriarch’s gaze. “You don’t appreciate the trouble I went to in providing you with such beautiful building material.”

“Forgive me, Once Upon a Time.” Happily Ever After cast his eyes down in submissive respect, lowering his eyelashes to hide any rebellious thoughts which might reveal themselves. “Thank you for your gift.”

“Be of good cheer, my beauty.” Once Upon a Time reached out to touch Happily Ever After’s cheek. “It’s clear to me you’re growing empty. Once I fill you, you’ll scream with the ecstacy of pure creativity.” He winked. “Regret shall leave you in peace when I do.”

Happily Ever After lifted his head and managed to smile. 

Once Upon a Time would be as good as his word. Once he coupled with Happily Ever After, the other would be overflowing with ideas breathed and released within him. Bursting with strength, he’d craft ending after ending, filled with joy, lust, and anticipation, leading his creations to feel the tug of a hopeful future. 

It wouldn’t last, though. It never lasted.