Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Growing Boy

I've finally posted the last part of Waiting for Rebirth at inspirationcauldron.blogspot.com.  It's time to share Paula Wyant's inspiring prompt on May 24, 2017. Every Wednesday, she posts one at ptwyant.com. I've held back from sharing this one, worried about spoilering my prelude at the other Cauldron. Now that Waiting for Rebirth is finished, I can finally post this Shadow Forest teaser. It gives you a glimpse of what's happening to Damian on the other side of the Door.  A Growing Boy reveals some of my other characters who play a part in my Tales of the Navel/The Shadow Forest series.

This blog uses cookies I must warn you about, especially if you live in the U.K. Please don't feed the cookies to the shadows. In fact, don't feed the shadows period if you can help it. :)

His winter was melting into greenery, into rebirth. 

Damian shivered and shut his eyes. He didn’t want to look at the abandoned cottage, forlorn and alone amidst the lush greenery reaching for the sunlight. 

“He’s hungry.”

The voice was older than it had been on the day of his Marriage Feast, deep with a maturity unknown to the males of his kind. Damian was the only one who’d survived his sixteenth birthday, much to the scorn of the other boys. 

Or so he’d thought. 

“Dyvian Ashelocke,” Damian murmured, turning towards the owner of the voice. 

The purple flowers of his Feast Day were still fresh, caught in the long tresses of Dyvian’s silvery white hair. Damian and Christopher had picked them themselves, trying to fake an enthusiasm for the day which was so natural to other arachnocratic boys. 

Dyvian had smiled with the same blissful joy every bridegroom showed, but his pale, violet rose eyes had been sharp and shiny as reflected sunlight on a glacier. Only when Christopher leaned forward to whisper something in his ear did his expression change. His white cheeks colored, giving him more of a marriage blush. 

“Is this where your spirit fled after Vanessa feasted upon you?” Damian asked, taking in the open, lavender robe his kinsman wore, exposing his hairless chest. Typical attire for a feast night, but Dyvian was far more wiry and muscular than any arachnocrat bridegroom could ever be. “Your flesh remains in its consumated form, within Vanessa’s garden.” 

“Someday, you’ll be here, too,” Vanessa had whispered into his ear, snaking her tongue into his ear. “Once Duessa gives you to me.”

Damian tried not to shiver, tried to swallow the sickness which made his knees weak whenever he thought of being Vanessa’s Marriage Feast. He hadn’t visited again, no matter how many times she invited him. 

This hadn’t stopped Vanessa from coming over to see him. Whenever she could. 

Damian gritted his teeth. This was why he was here in the Shadow Forest. To get stronger. To let go of the fear of being feasted upon by Vanessa or any other arachnocratic lady. 

“You shouldn’t be afraid, kinsman.” How gentle, how kind Dyvian’s voice was. Deep with confidence, a purring assurance Damian imagined Sebastian Ashelocke must have had.  “My spirit didn’t flee. It sought strength and power.”

Dyvian took a step towards his cousin. He was taller than Damian, with broader shoulders than he should have possessed. Damian had only seen such a thing in another male outside of the arachnocratic lands. 

“How is it possible?” Damian marveled, taking in the play of muscle. Dyvian’s chin was completely untouched by any trace of a beard. His hands were still slender and uncallused, yet they were long and strong. “You’re a man, yet not like any man I’ve ever seen!”

“I’ve have realized our true potential.” Dyvian moved with an almost feline grace towards his kinsman. It was an invitation to a dance, yet the air quivered with unrealized peril. “Marriage isn’t the end for us, kinsman. Not if we’re strong enough.”
Damian took a step back, away from the unspoken offer. He wasn’t quite ready to meet it, not yet. 

“You said he was hungry.” Damian turned back towards the cottage. Every leaf and frond of ivy clinging to the house quivered with need, with longing. It stretched out, silently pleading, almost like a small, pale hand reaching out from Damian’s own memories, trying to return to him. 

No. Don’t think about Christopher. He’s safe back in Omphalos. He’s real, enjoying the existence that never quite satisfied Damian. 

Perhaps he was, but just how much of Christopher had Damian pulled from the Shadow Forest? Some of him might still linger here in the leaves and grass.

Or in the cottage. 

“Boys get hungry, too,” Dyvian murmured. He took a flower from his hair. Someone had painted his fingernails purple. They were longer and sharper than Damian remembered. “Among arachnocrats, only girls get to eat, growing extra arms and eyes from their marriage feasts.” He lifted the flower to his nose. “I wonder what we’d grow, if we were allowed to blossom?”

“In order to blossom, we must eat.” Damian glanced back at the cottage. “What’s his name?” He gave his kinsman a sly glance. “I’m guessing he has another form, other than this.”

“Leiwell.” Dyvian shivered at the sound, the taste of the name on his lips. “He’s mine, Damian.” His eyes glistened with an emotion arachnocratic ladies revered, but seldom allowed themselves to feel. “Mine to create and feed without the interference of Duessa, Vanessa, or any other lady. He’ll never be anyone’s marriage feast!” The pupils of Dyvian’s eyes darkened and elongated. “Except, perhaps my own.”

“Such a naughty thought!” Damian grinned at the novelty of it. Play and romance happened between boys, but to actually feast on each other? It wasn’t just outrage, it was deliciously obscene. 

Ah, but who was he to judge? Hadn’t he let Christopher claim him right in front of Duessa herself? 

He turned to Dyvian, only to find his kinsman grinning back at him. 

“Ah, Damian! How I’ve missed you!” Dyvian’s grin softened into something more grave. “All the confidence of a lady and the shamelessness to back it up! One might also imagine you to be an incarnation of Sebastian Ashelocke.”

“No need to flatter me,” Damian said, feeling a flush creep up his neck. Sebastian Ashelocke had been his secret hero, the only male in the Ashelocke line who’d ever studied magic. 

“I don’t.” Something glimmered in Dyvian’s eyes, caught in his silver eyelashes. “You were always the clever one, the strong one, yet it never diminished your beauty. You outshone us all, except perhaps Christopher.” 

“Don’t mention him,” Damian murmured. Leaving Christopher, hearing Christopher cry out, when he stepped through the Door had been the hardest thing he’d done. Damian had thought his resolve was solid, but one thought of those liquid, imploring eyes, looking up at him with refound innocence was enough to shake him to the core. 

Damian couldn’t let himself be shaken. Not if he wanted to be strong. 

“Why not?” Dyvian asked. “Christopher was the loveliest of us all, the perfect ideal to aspire to. Delicate, slender, and filled with the yielding grace we tried to possess, yet something in him never yielded.” Dyvian brought his slender, white eyebrows together in a frown. 

Dyvian never frowned like that. He always tried to smile, to please, to win others over, to charm them, seduce them into following him. Somehow, it made Christopher and himself recoil, although neither of them had been sure why. 

“Did you take that frown from someone else?” Damian asked. He took another step back from Dyvian and the cottage. “Is that why you’ve managed to grow?”

“Yes, but it’s an ugly strength from an ugly lady.” Dyvian twisted his generous mouth in a sour grimace, but his eyes glittered with childish glee. “It is possible for us to feed on ladies, you know.”

“True, but I doubt you want your Leiwell to taste such fare,” Damian countered, glancing at the house. Everything about the greenery suggested youth, inexperience, and need. If only he wasn’t so like Christopher. It made Damian want to yield to that need. “Which is why you lured me from the path.”

“Don’t hate me, kinsman, but I want my Leiwell to have the very best.” The light dimmed in Dyvian’s eyes. “No one could ever compare to you, unless it’s Christopher.”

“You’ll never touch him.” At last, Damian voiced a jealousy he’d never admitted back when the three of them had been boys. “No matter how much you might seek him out, he’s found a place in a real world you and the other shadows can’t dislodge him from.”

“Ah, but what if you were in peril?” A sly smile tugged at Dyvian’s long mouth. “Once you leave the path, you’re fair game.” He dropped the flower from his hand. It drifted, slowly spinning to the grass. “What would Christopher give to steal you back?”
“He knows better than to return here.” Damian looked down at his feet. Darkness pooled around them, gathering, hissing. “To open a Door is to lose part of yourself.”

“He’d rather lose himself than you.” Dyvian allowed his smile to grow. “He’ll come, searching for you. He’ll find us.” Dyvian glanced the shadows swarming across the ground. “My boy and I have need of your strength. Yours…and his.”

“So do I.” Damian smiled back at Dyvian, delighted to feel the sharp curl of fangs, peeking out. Here, in the Shadow Forest, he was a lady’s equal. “Perhaps I’ll leave you a little, once I’ve feasted on yours.” He glanced at the cottage. “Both of yours.”

“Perhaps.” Dyvian moved with a swiftness Damian couldn’t follow with his eyes to stand between his former kinsman and the cottage. “Shall we find out if you can, Lord Damian Ashelocke?”

“I do enjoy being called ‘Lord’.” Damian allowed his tongue to caress his fangs, pricking it. A single drop of blood fell among the shadows, coloring them red. 

Dyvian’s own shadow grew, spreading out from his form to meet it. 



Did you enjoy this Ashelocke exchange? Curious about what’s going to happen next? Look for my ‘Tales of the Navel/The Shadow Forest’ books, when they’re released. Also keep an eye of both of my Cauldrons and this page. There’s a lot more of the Shadow Forest and its denizens to come…

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Paula's Prompt

The redoubtable Paula Wyant posts a prompt every Wednesday at ptwyant.com. On July 5, 2017, this involved fireflies/lightning bugs, the smell of food cooking, and an otter.

This proved to be surprisingly challenging. Not the least considering I'm juggling edits, Camp NaNoWriMo, and a host of other projects right now.

I managed to deliver a snapshot of part of Gabrielle's life to you, my Cauldron. Gabrielle is one of the major characters in my Tales of the Navel/The Shadow Forest series. She's the proprietor of the Navel, which is much more than simply a shop.

Here's a time in her life when she was much less formidable.


Fireflies danced around Mireille, forming a halo around her springy curls and bare arms. 

Gabrielle shivered at the sight of her. It was as if Mireille had become one of the Divine, a sacred spirit which ran through the earth and the air. 

“Look.” Mireille gestured to the river which flowed past them. 
An otter swam in its currents, bobbing her small brown head up and down, chasing a fish. 

Gabrielle had seldom seen such a playful beast. Perhaps she and Mireille could walk along the river, following her pursuit of the fish. 

The smell of roasting meat filled the air. Jean-Paul’s hum accompanied it, insistent and demanding. 

“I have to go.” Mireille backed away from the river and the freedom which awaited them. Towards Jean-Paul. 

Don’t go, Gabrielle wanted to cry. Already she was waking up herself. A hard cot lay beneath her prone body. Buckles bound her to the bed. She opened, resigned to wait and pray. 


Eventually, Rafaelle would release her. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

A New Tale of the Navel

This poor little Cauldron doesn't get as much attention since Facebook blocked it. Necessity has made me favor inspirationcauldron.wordpress.com. I haven't forgotten it, though. I try to stop by with something every week. Normally, it's on Wednesday, but the week has been insanely busy, what with edits to a new version of 'Fairest' for Nine Star Press, revising 'Stealing Myself From Shadows' for Camp NaNoWriMo, and everything else which is going on.

I'm here, though, with a fresh Tale of the Navel, thanks to Paula Wyant. During Wednesday Words on June 28, 2017, she offered up a prompt at ptwyant.com. It involved a bag of garbage, a ring, and a prison. This Gabrielle centric story was the result.

It looked like nothing more than a bag of garbage. Soiled ends of hair ribbon tangled themselves up with unwoved bits of basket. A chunk of matted hair with a piece of stained green cloth trapped with it. 

“It’s all trash.” Gabrielle might be the smallest and least accomplished of the Four Directions, but even she could figured that out. “There’s nothing here of value.”

“Are you sure, ‘Brie?” No one other than Mireille called Gabrielle ‘Brie. No one was quite like Mireille. She sat, with her orange skirts flared out around her, printed with red poppies and twisted green vines. Mireille arranged them around the fallen log in the forest, completely comfortable in her surroundings. Light shone off the golden charm around her ankle. It didn’t matter where she walked. Mireille always went barefoot. “Look closer.”

Gabrielle decided to humor her. Mireille was, after all, only part of a dream. ‘Brie could wake up whenever she wanted to. 

She stared at the strands of black, golden, and red hair clumped together in a fuzzy mess. The golden tendrils gleamed bright, no. It wasn’t the hair. Something was caught inside the hairy tangle. 

Gabrielle reached inside, trying not to grimace. “I don’t like touching other people’s hair. Not like this.”

“Yes, it’s a part of someone which has been discarded.” The green flecks with Mireille’s hazel irises glinted. “That someone didn’t want to touch it, either.”

“Why should I, then?” Gabrielle demanded, tearing her way through the messy strands. She found something hard, smooth, and solid. Fingers locked around its rounded edges, she tugged it loose. 

‘Brie looked down at the golden ring she’d discovered in the lump of knots. 

“How did you know?” She held it up to the light, admiring its gleaming edges. “How did you guess it was really a treasure?”

“Everything is a treasure, not just that shiny metal.” Mireille sniffed at the sight of the ring, completely unimpressed. “Typical. You tore through what was once human to get at the gold.”

“What of it?” Gabrielle was hurt by Mireille’s attitude. She’d just discovered a golden ring in a mat of hair! Why wasn’t her mentor proud of her? “Humans are weak!”

“Maybe.” Mireille stood up, letting her skirts fall around her long, brown legs. “You might be, too, if someone just ripped through a part of you.”

“It’s just hair!” Gabrielle protested, but her own words made her uneasy. 

“So it this.” Mireille raised a hand to touch one of the loose, coppery brown curls which fell to her shoulders. “It’s still attached to me, but it may not always be.”

“What do you mean?” The air prickled in warning. Gabrielle could feel her body quiver, where it was strapped down to the bed. 

Of course. She was still in the Temple of Direction. Rafaelle was coming. Perhaps she’d noticed Gabrielle sneaking off into her dreams. She hadn’t mentioned Mireille to any of the other directions. Not that Mireille was one of the many things that were forbidden, but too many things were. Gabrielle didn’t understand why there were so many things she couldn’t do, when she was awake. This was why she decided to keep Mireille secret. Best not to mention that she dreamed of Mireille on such a regular basis, Gabrielle wasn’t sure if she was real or not. Best to not to say anything. Dreams with Mireille were her only escape from being Gabrielle, the Western Aspect.  

“Sometimes people lose parts of themselves.” Mireille piroutted. Tiny motes of light drifted down to settle on her coppery tresses and bare brown shoulders. “They think they’re better off without them, but they can throw away things of value when they do.” 

“Is that what you think I’m doing?” Gabrielle stood up from the log. “Throwing away something of value?”

“You said it was just hair. I might say your Temple of Direction was just a building.” Mireille stopped twirling. “You could leave it.” She stared straight at Gabrielle. “Your temple is just a building, though, not to you.” She pirouetted again to face the path before her. “It’s your prison.”

Mireille started walking away, heedless of the brambles beneath her feet. 

“What do you expect me to do?” Gabrielle yelled after her. “Rafaelle ties me to my bed every night so I can’t escape!”

“Does she?” Mireille glanced over her shoulder. “Have you ever tried to escape?”

Gabrielle shuddered, half expected to feel the cot in the temple beneath her. Relieved, she pressed her lips to the smooth counter of the Navel instead.

“I’m home.” Home in her Place of Power, where Rafaelle could never find her, let alone drag her from. 

“If you can call this that.” Damian popped his head out from behind the shelves. “Presiding day after day over a pile of junk.”

Gabrielle smiled to hear the echo of her former self in her protege’s words. 

“Look closer.” She repeated what Mireille had once said to her. “Once everything here was part of someone.” 

“Which is why someone discarded it.” Damian grimaced. “Right.”

“Maybe, but you never know when that someone might want it back.” Gabrielle glanced at the crystals, the chicken statues, the robes with smiley faces. 

One could consider it all to be trash. Until you looked closer. Until you saw something you hadn’t noticed at first glance.